Hamrick, Herd eyeing Hurricane Florence
HUNTINGTON — Marshall athletic director Mike Hamrick is paying a bit closer attention to the weather this week as the Thundering Herd football team gets set for a trip to South Carolina for Saturday’s contest with the Gamecocks.
Hamrick confirmed on Monday that he has been in communication with South Carolina athletic director Ray Tanner to discuss potential contingency plans as Hurricane Florence makes it way toward the Carolinas.
“We’re preparing as we’re playing the football game on Saturday with all of our travel plans and we’ll be in constant communication with South Carolina,” Hamrick said. “They’ve been through this before and I’ve been through it before when I was at East Carolina. These things, you just have to see how they go. Hopefully, in the next couple of days, we’ll have a better idea of how this will play out. As of right now, we’re preparing as if we’re playing on Saturday.”
Hurricane Florence was upgraded from a Category 2 to Category 4 hurricane on Monday as warm ocean waters and a lack of wind shear combined to fuel the powerful storm, which brings dangerous winds, torrential downpours and threatening floods along with it.
Hamrick said that, at this time, he and Tanner have had no such discussion on a postponement or cancellation of the contest, which is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. on Saturday at Williams-Brice Stadium, however, both options are still a possibility and will likely enter the discussion as Florence gets closer to the coast and the path of the hurricane becomes a bit more certain.
“Maybe, at some point, you have to set a timeline or deadline, but at this point, that has not been discussed,” Hamrick said. ”.”
To this point, the focus of Hamrick and his staff includes working on contingency plans for travel to Columbia for the team, which includes getting with the team’s transportation company to gather information on various flights or securing enough buses to make the trip, if the situation should present itself.
“We’re in constant communication with our transportation people for contingencies,” Hamrick said. “We’ve been working on that all weekend and more (Monday) morning. Buses, additional flights, different times. It’s just constant communication.”
Ironically, Hamrick’s last trip to South Carolina was also the only time in his administrative career that he dealt with a hurricane impacting a game. Hamrick was athletic director at East Carolina and the Pirates were scheduled to play South Carolina when Hurricane Floyd made landfall in the Carolinas in 1999.
“We got our football team to South Carolina and the hurricane had just come through,” Hamrick said. “We played South Carolina and beat them, but the North Carolina Highway Patrol and university personnel each called us and said, ’It’s flooded. You can’t get back to Greenville (N.C.) because of the flooding in eastern North Carolina.
“Our football team spent the whole week in Columbia because our university was closed, and I called the athletic director at N.C. State - Les Robinson, who was from St. Albans - and asked if we could play Miami (Fla.) in his stadium because we had no power or water and you couldn’t get to Greenville. He let us play there and we beat Miami (Fla.) that night. That’s my one and only dealing with a hurricane.”
Unfortunately, the potential impact of Hurricane Florence is already being compared to Hurricane Floyd by National Weather Service warning coordination meteorologist Nick Petro.
In all, Hurricane Floyd was responsible for 74 fatalities and damage costs of $6.5 billion to the Carolinas and islands in the Atlantic Ocean.
“This is looking more and more like a life-threatening situation...,” Petro told the Raleigh News and Observer during a briefing on Florence. “Be ready for potentially worst-case scenarios here.”
In addition to Marshall’s game with South Carolina, West Virginia is also scheduled for a 3:30 p.m. contest with N.C. State at Carter-Finley Stadium in Raleigh, North Carolina. on Saturday. That game potentially stands to be more directly impacted by the path of Hurricane Florence.
Should the games continue as scheduled, Marshall and West Virginia fans who are braving the trip to the Carolinas are advised to purchase their supplies in advance of travel to Columbia.
Throughout the Carolinas, residents are buying up water, canned food and other supplies in preparation for the hurricane, which is expected to approach the coast of South Carolina or North Carolina on Thursday morning.