As Hurricane Irene loomed as an increasing threat for Maryland's east coast, Towson University yesterday began fulfilling its emergency role as a temporary home for 600 international students who had been working in Ocean City and Salisbury for the summer.
The first busload of students arrived from Ocean City around 6:15 p.m. Thursday, though the gyms at Burdick Hall weren't set up for them yet.
Red Cross volunteers were on hand to give the students arm bands and check them in, while TU staff worked to bring in stacks of bottled water and supplies and set up the gyms for housing.
The Town of Ocean City on Thursday ordered a mandatory evacuation for residents and visitors, and Towson University was named as a site providing refuge to those who have nowhere else to weather the approachingHurricane Irene.
"The idea is to get them off the shore," said John Dulina, regional administrator of central Maryland for Maryland Emergency Management Association.
"Some people suggested that we just send them to Salisbury, but we want to get them out of harm's way," Dulina said.
The students will be housed in Burdick Hall, a multi-purpose building that is home to three gymnasiums. If necessary, additional students will be housed in West Village Commons, a brand new, multi-purpose student center.
Johnny Hatten, who works for the Maryland Department of Human Resources, is serving the shelter manager, said that the students' day started at the Ocean City Convention Center, where they were checked in and put on a bus to Purdue Stadium in Salisbury.
As of Thursday evening, 100 students were en route to Towson, with backup sites available to MEMA should the gym at Burdick Hall fill up.
At Towson, students are being provided with cots, blankets, food, and first aid care, according to university spokeswoman Gay Pinder.
Computer access will also be provided so students can contact family members back home and let them know they're out of Ocean City.
'Welcome to Towson' weekend delayed
As part of the storm scenario, Towson University has delayed its scheduled move-in date for residential students, who were slated to move onto campus this weekend.
First-year students were scheduled to move in and begin their "Welcome to Towson" program on Saturday, Aug. 27, but will now wait until Monday, Aug. 29.
Returning students who were scheduled to move in on Sunday, Aug. 28 and Monday, Aug. 29 are now instructed to wait until Tuesday, Aug. 30.
Officials said a revised schedule for orientation events and activities will be available on the university website, http://www.towson.edu, on Friday.