As Clemson University officials monitored and prepared campus for potential impact from Hurricane Florence earlier this month, QuiAnne’ Holmes couldn’t help but think of home.

QuiAnne' Holmes, a graduate assistant in the Office of Advocacy and Success

Holmes is a graduate assistant in the Office of Advocacy and Success.
Image Credit: Clemson University Relations

Holmes — a graduate assistant in the Division of Student Affairs — was born and raised in Wilmington, North Carolina, one of the cities directly in Florence’s path. Her mother, Lisa, and 9-year-old sister and grandmother reside in Wilmington. The family considered evacuating, but opted to stay in large part because of Lisa’s job obligations. Holmes has extended family in neighboring cities New Bern and Jacksonville, both of which felt the wrath from Florence.

The storm made landfall in Wrightsville Beach on Sept. 14, and it didn’t take long for its high winds to force power outages across a large sector of the North Carolina coast.

“My family didn’t have a generator, which would have been helpful,” said Holmes, who works within the Office of Advocacy and Success in Hendrix Student Center. “My mom had food and water and prepared some meals in advance … but it’s hard to watch your hometown be destroyed and there’s nothing you can do to be directly involved.”

Cell phone service was hit or miss, leaving Holmes to wait on her mother to call and provide updates on the family’s safety. She watched the weather updates and stayed on top of everyone she knew in the area through Facebook and other social mediums.

In the days that have ensued since Florence wrecked the city, rising waters from the Cape Fear River and Greenfield Lake have caused major flooding in Wilmington and surrounding areas. Luckily, Holmes said her mother’s residence has survived without any major damage.

QuiAnne' Holmes, a Student Affairs graduate assistant, and family

Holmes’ mother and sister reside in Wilmington, North Carolina and rode out the horror of Hurricane Florence.
Image Credit: QuiAnne' Holmes

Not being able to return home to see her family has been the hardest part.

“I talk to everyone, and I know they’re okay,” she acknowledged. “But it’s hard as a graduate student with my own workload and responsibilities, to not be able to provide the direct support and resource help for my students, to my family or my hometown.”

Holmes initially expected to go home the weekend following Florence’s slow trek, but deteriorating road conditions had other plans. She saw the shocking images of Interstate 40 making the rounds on social media, and knew her trip would be delayed.

School districts in the Wilmington area have been out the better part of three weeks, with the earliest possible return aimed at Thursday, Oct. 4. Holmes graduated from John T. Hoggard High School, which has been used as a shelter, along with other area schools.

“It’s admirable of them to provide a safe place to stay,” she said. “It’s been hard on parents who are asked to go back to work and their children aren’t able to go to school. They have to find childcare, which can be difficult with the closure of many after-school programs.”

Parallels can be drawn between the work Holmes currently performs as a graduate assistant and of those aiding victims of Hurricane Florence. The Office of Advocacy and Success serves as a critical referral point for Clemson students, connecting them to resources in times of need or distress. Because her family and friends along the North Carolina coast have found themselves in similar situations, Holmes has a message for the Clemson Family.

“Help, any way you can,” she said. “Figure out how to connect with representatives and officials in Wilmington and the surrounding areas. Be open to figure out how to connect in a positive and effective manner. We have to ensure that the resources we provide are accessible and adaptable to people and families in need.”

Note: Mike Ellis of Anderson Independent Mail put together an article listing extensive ways to support Hurricane Florence relief efforts. Click HERE to learn more.