Hurricane Florence has significance for Marquette Athletics personnel


Rescue personnel evacuate residents as flooding continues in the aftermath of Hurricane Florence in Spring Lake, N.C., Monday, Sept. 17, 2018. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

As Hurricane Florence ravages through the southeast corner of the United States, the damage hits close to home for Marquette University men’s basketball head coach Steve Wojciechowski and track and field athlete Sam Johnson.

After hitting the North Carolina coast Thursday afternoon, the storm has now moved down to a tropical depression. Many people expected Hurricane Florence to be a Category 5 storm but instead hit the Carolinas as a Category 1 storm. The storm made landfall near Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina Friday morning. At least 25 people passed away in storm-related deaths.

Wojciechowski spent most of his life near the affected region, growing up in Severna Park, Maryland, and graduating from high school in Baltimore. He switched between a player, broadcaster or coach for Duke University in Durham, North Carolina for almost two decades.

“The hurricane is a very scary thing,” Wojciechowski said. “Obviously a lot of people on the East Coast — whether it’s up in Maryland where I grew up, or in North Carolina where I went to school — a lot of those people are going to be affected by the winds and the heavy rainfall.”

Durham Public Schools are expected to have classes open all week after avoiding much of the brunt of Hurricane Florence.

“Fortunately, everyone I know is in good shape, but we’re just at the start of the storm,” Wojciechowski said last Friday. “I obviously just want to see everybody walk away from Hurricane Florence safe and sound, their loved ones safe and sound and the places they treasure safe and sound.”

The storm has not only impacted Wojciechowski, but also some students. Twenty-eight Marquette students are from the Carolinas, the two states most impacted by the hurricane, according to a fall 2017 report by the Office of Institutional Research and Analysis.

One of those students is Johnson, a sophmore who hails from Statesville, North Carolina. His family, located about 30 or 40 minutes outside of Charlotte, is safe, but he said the past few days have been anxiety-producing.

“Usually we don’t get that much bad weather, so I wasn’t totally worried,” Johnson said. “But it was a kind of weird feeling — something I’ve never felt in my body. It could go either way, it could get worse, or it could get better … I called them every day.”

He found out Statesville faced the latter option during a noon phone call with family Monday afternoon.

“It didn’t get affected too badly, but it was a lot of rain,” Johnson said. “Just flooding a lot … It wasn’t as bad as it was predicted. They have power, but most of the town where I live in lost a lot of power.”

He said his younger siblings did not have class Friday and had a two-hour delay Monday.

The North Carolina native’s friends haven’t all been as fortunate. One of his friends attends the University of Coastal Carolina, where Hurricane Florence had a much bigger impact. He has not heard from him yet.

In the meantime, there’s not much for Wojciechowski and Johnson to do except wait.

“I’m just thinking about them,” Wojciechowski said. “Hopefully everyone will stay safe during this scary time.”