As a charter plane carrying dozens of Barry University students took off from the U.S. Virgin Islands, Hurricane Maria was just hours away from becoming a raging Category 5 storm targeting the Caribbean.
In less than 24 hours, Barry officials managed to charter a private plane to St. Croix to evacuate students, faculty and staff, who are part of the university’s physician assistant program. Barry, whose main campus is near Miami Shores, has a campus in St. Croix.
Barry readied the dining hall and several rooms on its Miami campus, along with a home the university owns in the neighborhood, for the 72 evacuees, who arrived with their pets aound 8:30 Monday night at Miami International Airport.
“I realized that the hurricane had become a Category 5 while we were waiting on the tarmac for the plane to land,” said Barry University President Sister Linda Bevilacqua. “As I watched that plane land, I just smiled; I actually clapped.”
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The evacuation out of St. Croix comes about a week after Hurricane Irma devastated the Virgin Islands, which consist of St. John’s, St. Thomas and St. Croix.
University administrators decided to evacuate the students and faculty on Sunday afternoon. By Sunday night, the school had communicated with everyone via email and text, submitting their information to World Atlantic Airways, the charter flight company .
By 1 p.m. they were all at the airport in St. Croix.
“It’s been a whirlwind. First Irma, now Maria,” said 28-year-old student Sara Amys. “I’m just glad and grateful to be off the island.”