WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — While Hurricane Idalia may not impact South Florida directly, many residents have children they just dropped off at college in the northern part of the state.
It's hard enough for any parent to drop their child off at college and say goodbye. Now after just beginning fall classes, a major storm is heading toward parts of Florida with several colleges and universities in its path.
"Seeing the latest track and that it's going to be a Category 3 makes me a little more nervous," said local teacher and University of Florida graduate Tara Rothberg.
Rothberg worries about her daughter, Jenna, a junior at UF, in Idalia's path.
"I feel like when it gets there, it shouldn't be as bad as here near the coast. But it makes me think of her apartment. Is it built properly? The windows. What's going to happen? What if she loses power? What is she going to do?" Rothberg said.
It's a concern for many parents who just sent their kids off to college as the storm churns toward several Florida campuses.
"Parents who may be worried about their kids, want them to come home, is there a certain time you really need to make that decision by?" WPTV education reporter Stephanie Susskind asked WPTV First Alert Weather meteorologist Steve Villanueva.
"The sooner, the better," Villanueva answered. "Once you start to lollygag and wait, things can go downhill fairly quickly. And starting tomorrow, we are going to see those outer bands. And driving in those outer bands will not be fun."
Villanueva said Gainesville is expected to see the greatest wind and rain impacts on the storm's current track.
"Some computer models hinting Gainesville could have wind gusts up to 90 miles per hour," Villanueva said. "So we're talking hurricane-force winds in Gainesville. Less so for Tallahassee because they are on the other side of the storm. And Tampa is way down here, so Tampa could have the least impact from the storm."
Villanueva said the best thing parents can do is encourage their kids to stay calm and follow the university's directions. For example, the University of Florida said students can shelter at their apartment or residence hall.
Rothberg said, so far, her daughter is staying put. But as a mom, her mind is never at ease.
"As a parent, you are always worried. You worry all the time. So it's definitely not a worry we want to have. And we just want to know they are safe," Rothberg said.
Because of the threat of Idalia, the University of Florida's campus in Gainesville will close and all classes will be canceled starting at 12 p.m. Tuesday and continuing through Wednesday.
All academic and student-related activities, including online classes and exams, will also be canceled.
The university expects to make an announcement on Wednesday about the rest of the week.
Florida State University in Tallahassee will close on Wednesday and all classes will be canceled. Main campus housing and dining operations will continue through the closure. The university expects to resume classes on Thursday.
Florida A&M University in Tallahassee main campus will close on Wednesday and all classes will be canceled. The university will resume operations as soon as emergency management gives the all clear. Students are urged to shelter in place.
At the University of South Florida in Tampa, all classes will be canceled Tuesday and Wednesday, and all USF campuses will be closed on those days. Classes are expected to resume on Thursday.
The University of North Florida in Jacksonville will cancel all classes, including online classes, on Tuesday and Wednesday. Activities and events scheduled on campus will also be canceled.
UNF plans to resume normal operations on Thursday.
To keep tabs on what's happening at your child's college or university, they post the latest information on the homepage of their websites. Students can also get emergency alerts on their cell phones.