Editor’s note: District photographer Daniel Cheon was among the students who were evacuated to SCAD-Atlanta as Hurricane Matthew churned in the Atlantic. His account of the experience is shared in this post.

Twelve hundred students from SCAD-Savannah are riding out Hurricane Matthew from the safety of the Atlanta campus following an unprecedented large-scale university evacuation.

Hours before state and county emergency officials ordered all residents to evacuate coastal Georgia on Thursday, SCAD began a campus-wide mandatory evacuation. Most students had already left Savannah after the university canceled classes on Tuesday and closed all buildings except residence halls and dining facilities.

The first round of evacuations of students who live in SCAD residence halls began at noon on Thursday, according to emergency emails from university officials to students. A second round of evacuations for students who live off-campus started at 9 p.m.

By the time SCAD buses hit the road they were joining a throng of other evacuees who also were fleeing the coast. A Savannah-to-Atlanta trip should take just four hours or less, but with all the evacuation traffic, it took roughly 12 hours for the first wave of students to reach Atlanta. The second wave of buses arrived in Atlanta at 4 a.m., according to student evacuees.

 

Food, water, along with mobile shower stations are being provided for the evacuees. The students were greeted by SCAD employees with a hot meal and doughnuts. Computer labs, classrooms and the Atlanta campus library were all repurposed and filled with temporary cots.

For the most part, parents praised SCAD for keeping families and students up to date with dozens of emails, texts and social media posts. Though 1,200 students needed sheltering in Atlanta, thousands of other students found housing with friends, nearby families or in hotels across the region.

“I just want to say a huge thank-you … to all the staff for their fast actions ensuring that our children’s (young adults) safety was/is top priority,” wrote one mother on Facebook. “Though (the staff) have their own families to secure, our Bees are well taken care of! We are so Blessed to be a part of the SCAD family!”

Though Savannah is frequently at risk for hurricanes, this is the first time since 1999 that the campus was closed and evacuated while class was in session, according to news archives.

Classes for Wednesday evening and Thursday have been cancelled for SCAD Atlanta, and all due dates were postponed until further notice, according to emails. The same cancellations apply to the Savannah campus.

There is no clear estimate as to when SCAD-Savannah students will be able to return to their home campus.