President Hebert reflects on Hurricane Matthew

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  • President Hebert is on the field at the Georgia Tech game. Hebert paid close attention to Hurricane Matthew developments. 

Tandra Smith

Hurricane Matthew impacted many people and students in Bulloch and surrounding countries and other states early this October, with our own university president being affected as well.

Now that the hurricane has come and gone, President Hebert reflected on just how well the university, county and state handled the storm, as well as his own personnel.

Q: Does Georgia Southern have a specific plan in place when hurricanes are scheduled to hit the area, such as evacuation plans?

A: We have an emergency management plan. We don’t specifically have a hurricane plan.

Usually coastal universities will have a specific hurricane plan. We’re in a place where we are never, hopefully, never ever going to be impacted by storm surge.

We [Statesboro] will have heavy rains with a tropical storm or heavy rains, maybe winds with a hurricane but we can handle those sorts of things within our usual emergency management plan. So we don’t really need to have a separate hurricane initiative because we don’t quite have as many impending risks that are specifically associated with hurricanes.

Q: Why was there no Eagle Alert or message sent out to students and parents about the ongoing power outage in on-campus housing on Friday, Saturday, and for few hours on Sunday?

A: [An] Eagle Alert will only be used in situations of imminent danger. We want it to be that way. If we start to use Eagle Alert for just general notification of non dangerous situations, then people may get a little complacent in reading.

We receive all of our power from Georgia Power, so if we’re going to lose power we’re at mercy of the power providers. So we don’t have estimates.

Other than contacting people who already know you don’t have power and saying, ‘your power’s out’, it’s a little tough.

When you are in a situation like we were in where there were grids down everywhere, we are second or third on the list. Number one on the list is always your emergency personnel.

Q: How prepared do you believe the university was for the impacts of Hurricane Matthew?

A: I told Chancellor Huckabee I have been through hurricanes in Louisiana, and been through multiple hurricanes in Texas as an administrator and as a civilian. I have never seen a state handle a hurricane as well as Georgia did in this situation.

I don’t mean here just at the university, I mean the state across. The contraflow, the evacuation of Savannah, the coordination between all of the groups with Georgia State patrol, using our facility, Georgia Power using our facility, everyone pitching in and coordinating so that things happened well.

Hebert on releasing early Thursday

For Hurricane Matthew, GS officials had already cancelled classes on Friday, Oct. 7, in anticipation of the storm hitting in the late afternoon. Thursday classes were expected to go on as usual, but Hebert, at the urging of the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT), decided to cancel classes after 10:00 a.m.

“It was a last minute decision. We felt very secure in announcing only a Friday cancellation,” Hebert said. “That was our intention.”

Once Hebert received word that Savannah was going to evacuate, GDOT was contacted.

He was amazed at how students worked together and how the faculty and staff all came together to get things resolved.

“We did it [released early] to be team players with the rest of the state,” Hebert said. “I couldn’t be prouder of the way that our staff, our students and our faculty responded in this situation. It was really amazing to me.”