More wildfires and storms

Clackamas Community College is serving as a staging area for first responders battling the fires. (Photo: Clackamas)

In late August, wildfires in California prompted several community colleges and other institutions to close, while a hurricane was barreling toward states lining the Gulf Coast.

Three weeks later, wildfires have now enveloped parts of Oregon, producing dangerous air quality, and there’s another hurricane closing in on the Louisiana-Mississippi-Alabama area.

A number of colleges in Oregon, including Lane, Umpqua and Rogue, closed their campuses for several days because of the wildfires and hazardous air quality, but most were already closed to students as they shifted to remote learning for the fall due to the pandemic. Even with the wildfires and smoke, the colleges continue to provide classes and student services online.

Clackamas Community College has had several of its campuses closed since September 10 and planned to cancel all classes for Tuesday. The college has served as a staging area for first responders battling the fires, with the college’s foundation raising $25,000 to support those firefighters and medics with food and shelter.

Last week, Portland Community College, which also had to close temporarily due to poor air quality, sent students, faculty and staff from its fire protection program to help firefighting crews, as did other colleges and universities with similar programs, including Umpqua.

Linn-Benton Community College also chipped in to help, with culinary arts staff and students and former students using their skills to feed people displaced by wildfires. They fed up to 200 people at the Linn fairgrounds and then sent another 300 meals to Benton County.

Watching the Gulf

Meanwhile, states along the Gulf Coast are again monitoring storms approaching from the Atlantic. Coastal community colleges in Louisiana, such as Delgado and Nunez, announced on Monday that they will remain virtual-only on September 15 as Hurricane Sally made its way toward southeast Louisiana and the Mississippi-Alabama state line.

Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College and Pearl River Community College also announced they will close all locations and centers Tuesday and Wednesday, with classes continuing online. Dorms and the dining hall will remain open. In Alabama, Bishop State Community College will close Monday and Tuesday with ongoing remote instruction, while Jones College planned to stay remote-only on Wednesday.

Hurricane Sally is one of four storms simultaneously developing in the Atlantic. Last month, Hurricane Laura prompted two-year colleges in Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi to close, with reports of only minimal damage.

About the Author

Matthew Dembicki
is editor of Community College Daily and serves as publications director for the American Association of Community Colleges.