Classes were cancelled at universities in Nova Scotia on Monday as students gathered in the few buildings still with power and anticipated being out of school for several days because of the damage wrought by post-tropical storm Fiona.
At St. Francis Xavier University in Antigonish, hundreds of students spent Monday huddled inside university buildings that had power thanks to generators. Classes were cancelled Monday and Tuesday and students were told that assignments and tests scheduled for this week would be postponed until next week at the earliest.
In an e-mail to students, the university’s vice-president and provost, Amanda Cockshutt, said classes cannot resume until power is restored and the university cannot say with confidence when that will be.
Kevin Bronson, a first-year science student, was in his residence Friday night when the worst of the storm hit. He said the wind was howling and windows were shaking. Around midnight the fire alarm sounded.
The roof of one of the residences was damaged. Water came pouring into some sections of the residence, he said, and he had heard that one room had a few centimetres of water on the floor. In the middle of the night, dozens of students evacuated the residence, setting off in the dark for Mulroney Hall, a building on campus where they could take shelter.
“People were kind of afraid. It was a scary time,” Mr. Bronson said.
There was a spirit of camaraderie, though, being in a building of classrooms in the middle of the night, Mr. Bronson said. Students played games of hangman on the white boards in the classrooms. Later some even commandeered the information screens in the hallways to play video games.
Brendan Roberts, president of the St.FX Students’ Union, said the storm had produced a lot of stress for students, particularly those living off campus who don’t have access to buildings with power. Some have had their homes damaged, others were still without running water Monday, he said.
The student union was distributing food vouchers to allow students to get a warm meal in the campus cafeteria, which was running on generator power, he said. “Right now we’re focused on making sure everyone has food and water and shelter.”
At Cape Breton University near Sydney, classes were also cancelled Monday as power was knocked out in much of the region.
Paul MacDougall, a senior instructor in public health at CBU, said there were trees down all over Sydney on Monday. In his neighbourhood in Sydney’s south end, where many students live, most were still without power, he said.
Mr. MacDougall said a large proportion of the CBU student population are international students who live in shared accommodations off campus. For those students who had been in Canada only a few weeks, the wallop of the storm came as a shock, he said.
“It’s not like the students from India or other countries would’ve expected they’d be in the eye of one of the biggest hurricanes, by some measures, to ever hit Canada. Most were flabbergasted,” Mr. MacDougall said. “We’ve got power lines down everywhere, trees down, trees crashed into houses, sidewalks uprooted.”
On a walk Sunday, he encountered a group of several students from India, many of whom he recognized from his classes, who had connected all their computers and phones to a power cord that a neighbour had hooked up to a generator. There was a positive feeling of neighbourly solidarity, he said.
Mr. MacDougall said he had spoken with students who had been displaced by storm damage, including one who said the roof of his building, home to dozens of other students, had been damaged. He said he was being put up at a local hotel and likely wouldn’t be back in his apartment for a few weeks.
In Halifax, Dalhousie University said campus would reopen Tuesday and classes would resume Wednesday.