Hurricane Ida sends Nicholls State students to shelter at Louisiana Tech

With their return home unknown, evacuated students are concerned about their future

By: - August 31, 2021 6:30 am

Magen Gore and Jessie Stalling share a cot at LA Tech (Photo by Rachel Mipro/Louisiana Illuminator)

The future is uncertain for the 40 Nicholls State University students taking shelter at Louisiana Tech in Ruston.

The students, who evacuated Saturday night, have no timeframe for when they might be able to return to college. Nicholls hometown parish of Lafourche was devastated by Hurricane Ida, and damage is currently being assessed, with roads still flooded and power lines and cell service down.

The Nicholls students and the two residential life staff members accompanying them are housed in the Lambright Sports and Wellness Center, where cots have been set up in orderly lines, partitioned off by gender. 

Though students said they were very grateful for Louisiana Tech’s assistance, most expressed trepidation. Jade Weber, a junior who’s from Assumption Parish, said she was really worried the first night, as it was the first time she hadn’t been with her family during a big storm. 

“The first night was rough, because they (the cots) were hard and especially after driving so long we were exhausted and then the first night the emergency lights were on all night and it was a hard time to sleep,” Weber said. “But we made it through the first night and our second night was much easier.”

Over the past few days, she’s been spending her time taking notes from school, catching up on movies and just talking with other students. While Weber said she’s felt better after learning her family weathered the storm, the damage is still worrying. 

“Seeing all the other homes in Lafourche and Terrebonne being destroyed, it hurts my heart,” Weber said. 

The most important thing right now is keeping the students from getting cabin fever, said Jon Stallons, Nicholls Residential Life area coordinator. Stallons accompanied the students during the evacuation as a supervisor. While he’s anxious to go back and see the state of his own home, he said he was glad the university decided to evacuate students. 

“The university making the decision to go ahead and get everyone out of there was really just the best call,” Stallons said. “I think doing that really gave us a good opportunity to get away and keep everyone safe and still have a good time here at Louisiana Tech.” 

The university is prepared to host the students for as long as necessary, said Tonya Oaks Smith, Louisiana Tech executive director of University Communications and Marketing. She’s been organizing activities for the students. 

So far, Nicholls students have been swimming, playing tennis and working out. Monday night, there’s plans to go to Walmart and then have a movie night.  

“They have a chance to blow off steam,” Smith said. 

 It will be at least another day until an estimated reopening time for Nicholls can be given, according to University of Louisiana System President Jim Henderson, as damages are currently being assessed. 

Henderson said it was heartwarming to see the partnership between the two universities. 

“Louisiana Tech helping the students at Nicholls is what we do,” Henderson said.

But students are still worried about the disrupted school year. Magen Gore, a graduating senior, said she would be more relaxed if she knew what was going to happen. 

“We still don’t even know if we’re going to be able to finish the semester or if they’re going to send us home, even though a lot of us who are here don’t really have anywhere to go,” Gore said. 

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Rachel Mipro
Rachel Mipro

Rachel Mipro is a contributing reporter to the Illuminator. She has previous experience at WBRZ and The Reveille and earned a bachelor’s degree in English from Louisiana State University. At LSU, she worked as an opinion editor for The Reveille and as a nonfiction editor for the university’s creative writing journal. In her free time, she enjoys baking, Netflix and hiking.