Hurricane Ian forces closures of colleges and events across Florida and Deep South

Institutions in South Carolina, North Carolina and Georgia brace for wind, rain from the storm this weekend.

(This story is developing and will be updated)

Colleges and universities across Florida’s west coast and through the center of the state canceled classes and events through the end of this week because of the powerful Category 4 Hurricane Ian that struck just south of the Tampa/Sarasota area on Wednesday and Thursday.

The Sunshine State has been experiencing the force of Ian since Tuesday, and many institutions were forced into early preparations and evacuations in getting campuses ready for potential shelter situations. Some institutions like Florida Gulf Coast University were in the direct path of the storm – where top winds were estimated at 155 mph – and are under an indefinite curfew because of safety and damage concerns.

Many students at Stetson University in DeLand, just north of Orlando exited campus before the storm came through, although 327 opted to ride it out, along with 22 residential assistants.

“Students are being told to stay in place and remain inside their residence halls from this evening until Hurricane Ian passes through the area late Thursday,” university officials said.

The University of South Florida, located in downtown Tampa, shut down its classrooms from Tuesday through Monday and urged “students, faculty and staff to plan carefully, follow local weather reports and monitor updates from county and state emergency management officials.” Ringling College of Art and Design in neighboring Sarasota closed its campus on Tuesday, and it told students to leave residential housing by noon on Tuesday. Shelters nearby opened to accommodate them.

Though Tampa was spared from a direct hit, it has felt the impact of others–namely Hurricane Charley in 2004 and Irma in 2017–many residents up and down the west coast experienced the fury of Ian and the unprecedented storm surges on Wednesday. Nearly $2 million homes were without power. Essential items were at a premium, and Gov. Ron DeSantis activated some 2,500 members of the national guard to assist.

More from UB: Does your campus have a plan to survive severe weather events?

One campus that ended up being in the direct path of the storm as it reduced in intensity was Bethune-Cookman University in Daytona Beach. Leaders at the Historically Black institution canceled classes earlier this week. Bethune made the pivot to remote learning Tuesday but not with live instruction. Instead, it turned to an asynchronous model via Canvas. Bethune is told  students to use cellphones as their “computers” if they could not get on laptops or computers. It has not set a timetable for return to classroom instruction.

“We are mindful of the technological challenges that some individuals may face and ask that everyone work collaboratively as teachers and learners to keep our eyes on the prize – assuring that our students continue to engage with course objectives/content and meet performance standards on rubrics and other assessment tools,” they said. “We expect faculty whose instruction includes lab operations and/or creative performance activities to be flexible due to these unanticipated circumstances.”

The University of Central Florida canceled most of its Family Weekend events that were scheduled to start this Friday but is still monitoring updates from the National Weather Service, the National Hurricane Center and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). UCF maintained its own mandatory alert app through campus police that kept students updated as Ian moved through Orlando.

However, in true Florida fashion of riding out hurricanes, UCF and two other major football programs to the north – Florida State University and the University of Florida all continue to say their games will be played this weekend (UF moving its game to Sunday).  USF has already moved its scheduled game against East Carolina to Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton.

Institutions across the South are closely watching as Ian shifts north and re-forms over the Atlantic Ocean.


  • Coastal Carolina University and The Citadel have canceled classes for Thursday and Friday
  • South Carolina State University has canceled classes for  Friday
  • Trident Technical College is closed Thursday and Friday, with classes going remote
  • Charleston Southern University is shifting to remote learning Thursday and Friday
  • Voorhees University is closed Thursday through Saturday.


  • College of Coastal Georgia is closed Thursday and Friday
  • Georgia Southern has moved all classes online Thursday and Friday
  • Savannah College of Art & Design is closed Thursday and Friday
  • Savannah Technical College is closed Thursday through Saturday
  • Savannah State University moved classes online Wednesday through Friday


Winston-Salem University is one of many across the South to cancel its homecoming events for this weekend.


A partial list of institutions that announced closures in Florida beginning earlier this week (many in the Florida state college system closed, as well):

  • Eckerd College, St. Petersburg: Closed Monday through Friday
  • Flagler College, St. Augustine: Closed Wednesday through Friday
  • Florida Atlantic University: Closed Wednesday and Thursday
  • Florida A&M University, Tallahassee: No classes Tuesday through Friday. University closed Thursday and Friday
  • Florida International University: Closed Tuesday and Wendesday
  • Jacksonville University: Closed Wednesday through Friday
  • Florida Gulf Coast University, Fort Myers: Closed Tuesday and Wednesday
  • Florida Polytechnic University: Closed Tuesday through Friday
  • Florida State University, Tallahassee: No classes Tuesday through Friday. University closed Thursday and Friday.
  • Hillsborough Community College, Tampa: Closed Tuesday through Thursday
  • New College of Florida, Sarasota: Closed Monday through Friday
  • Rollins College, Winter Park: Closed Wednesday
  • St. Leo University: Closed Wednesday through Friday
  • St. Petersburg College: Closed Tuesday through Sunday
  • University of Florida: Closed Wednesday through Friday
  • University of North Florida: Closed Wednesday through Friday
  • University of Tampa: Closed Monday through Friday
  • Valencia College, Orlando: Closed Wednesday through Friday
Chris Burt
Chris Burt
Chris is a reporter and associate editor for University Business and District Administration magazines, covering the entirety of higher education and K-12 schools. Prior to coming to LRP, Chris had a distinguished career as a multifaceted editor, designer and reporter for some of the top newspapers and media outlets in the country, including the Palm Beach Post, Sun-Sentinel, Albany Times-Union and The Boston Globe. He is a graduate of Northeastern University.

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