U of O remained open despite City urging people to stay home

Power outages and traffic-related delays made it difficult for many University of Ottawa students to get to class Monday Sept. 24 after six tornadoes hit the Ottawa, Gatineau, and west Quebec areas on Friday, Sept. 21.

“I find it very disruptive to learning, because how are you going to study with no light?” said Angela Psimenatos, a social sciences student at the U of O.

Psimenatos lives in Nepean, an area hard hit by the severe weather, and travels a 30-minute commute to campus by car.

“The university should take into account people who live off campus because some people don’t have (easy) access to the university, and it’s an accessibility issue,” she said. “People have wheelchairs or breathing devices that are dependent on power.”

The U of O opened on Monday following the tornado while the Ottawa Police Services, Federal Government and City of Ottawa urged workers to stay off the roads and work from home.

The Student Federation of the University of Ottawa (SFUO) food bank has also felt the effects of the storm, as its supply depends on donations from other food banks in the area. This could make it harder for the food bank to provide for the students after severe weather storms when demand increases in affected areas.

“There is no guarantee that I will receive the order because they give me what they have,” said SFUO food bank coordinator, Sarah Molina Boubekraoui.

Unlike the university, however, the SFUO closed their office and all services until Tuesday, Sept. 25.

Sandy Hill and Centretown did not see the same severity of damage as others areas in Ottawa, and many services around the Sandy Hill area say they have not seen an increase in residents using their services. The Sandy Hill Community Centre, The Sandy Hill Community Health Centre, and the SFUO Food Bank said the number of community members accessing their services did not exceed the average.

The story was different across the city.

In Nepean, evening classes at Algonquin College were cancelled on Friday, Sept. 21. Power was restored to most of the campus by Saturday afternoon, but classes in the Algonquin Centre for Construction Excellence building were suspended until Monday, Sept. 24.

Over the weekend, students were allowed to charge their phones at the school’s banquet hall. However, power-related disruptions, affecting wi-fi signals, continued Tuesday, Sept. 25 as power was transferred from Algonquin’s generators to the Ottawa Hydro grid.

There was not a one-size-fits-all approach to this because everyone had different circumstances,”  said Algonquin College communications manager, Ruth Dunley. “We are taking it on a case-by-case basis.”

Most services in the City were functioning normally by Wednesday, Sept. 26 but, the City continues to offer additional services and support.

At its height, the storm had wind gusts up to 260 km/h, damaged approximately 150 homes, and left 175,000 Hydro Ottawa customers without power.

Students impacted by the severe weather storm can contact U of O Housing Services at 613-562-5621 and access the SFUO Food Bank in room 0015 of the University Centre.