Relocated. Tulane University civil engineering seniors (from left) Strickland, Bowden, Stein and McClernon now study in Gainesville, Fla. (Photo courtesy of Amy Stein for ENR)

Amy Stein, a 21-year-old civil engineering student from Palm Harbor, Fla., looked forward to her senior year at Tulane University in New Orleans. She had just finished an internship in San Francisco, moved all of her belongings into a small apartment off campus, signed up to take the LSAT for law school in October, and pondered the possibility of working for the Peace Corps.

But on Aug. 27, the morning of her flight from San Francisco back to Florida and the day before she was to return to Tulane, Stein awoke to an uncertain future. Friends began calling to tell her that they were piling into cars and evacuating the city. Worrying only slightly, since hurricane evacuations had never amounted to much except a short vacation for the students, Stein flew back home to wait out the storm.
“My roommates all got in a car and went to Dallas because that’s where the closest one lived,” Stein said. “Evacuations are often excuses for little road trips…every other time they’ve turned out to be fun.”

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    Back in New Orleans, 18-year-old Jeff Hedges from Little Rock, Ark., was enjoying his first week away from home at the Tulane freshmen orientation. Having worked for the Arkansas Highway Dept., Hedges was anxious to start his civil engineering education. He had barely moved into the dorms and was meeting new friends when all the students were told to evacuate.

    “We only took a week’s worth of clothing,” Hedges said, who ventured back home to Arkansas. “All of our possessions are back in New Orleans.”

    Joe Offutt, a 19-year-old mechanical engineering sophomore at Tulane, was putting the finishing touches on his new dorm when he caught word of Katrina. Lamenting of last year’s flight from the hurricanes to a friend’s house in Memphis, Offutt called up his fraternity brothers and volunteered his house in San Antonio as refuge until they were permitted to return to their campus. "Tulane gets evacuated every year for hurricanes, but nothing ever happens,” says Offutt, who ventured to Texas with 24 members from his fraternity and only four days of clothing. “We get a little vacation, then we go back to school and everything’s fine.”

    Stein, Hedges and Offut are among thousands of students at Tulane and other local universities–including those in civil engineering and architecture–that have had to flee campus, as fall semester gave way to rising floodwaters. The students sat glued to the television for the next few days, as they watched Katrina escalate in force, then annihilate entire communities and coastlines on the Gulf Coast. Offutt and his fraternity members huddled around TV images of CNN, Fox News and the Weather Channel, the idea of a vacation now trivial.

    By Monday, the hurricane began to take out its wrath on their beloved New Orleans as the levees gave way and water flooded the city. "I realized there was no way that Tulane would be able to salvage the semester," says Stein, who enrolled at the University of Florida, Gainesville, the next day, along with three fellow civil engineering students, David Strickland, Nathan Bowden, and Patrick McClernon. “I chose UF because it was the school where I knew the most people… I also considered the class starting date. The closeness of the school allowed me to move quickly in registering for classes and getting settled.” Offutt inquired at the University of Texas at Austin and was enrolled within an hour, he said. Hedges enrolled at the nearby University of Arkansas, and began his college career at yet another new school.
    At least seven New Orleans area colleges were flooded wholly or partially and have shut down. The mass exodus of thousands of students have come from Dillard University, Loyola University in New Orleans, Our Lady of Holy Cross College, Southern University in New Orleans, Tulane University, University of New Orleans (UNO) and Xavier University of Louisiana, where most campuses have been flooded and are inaccessible.

    Only Tulane and the University of New Orleans (UNO) had engineering or architecture schools, but Katrina affected more than 700 engineering undergrads and thousands of graduate students at Tulane. It was not known how many UNO engineering students were displaced, but the school had more than 13,000 total undergrads in 2004, says U.S. News & World Report.

    For Reed Kroloff, dean of Tulane'S School of Architecture, the first challenge was finding them or even knowing the complete list of who they were looking for. He and associate dean Ila Berman worked cell phones and email furiously in the first few days; now a Tulane web site offers bulletin boards and contact information.

    Architecture schools throughout the country have offered to host displaced Tulane students. Several of them registered at schools nearby, including Louisiana State University and Mississippi State University. Holly Latter was set to start her architecture master’s thesis at Tulane this year, arriving back on campus one day before she evacuated with just a few items of clothing. She now is enrolled as a visiting student at the Parsons School of Design in New York City.

    According to Kroloff, the University of Texas-Arlington and Georgia Technological University were quick with generous offers, as was Wellington "Duke" Reiter at Arizona State University (where Kroloff previously taught), which is preparing to host upwards of 30 fifth-year students and five Tulane faculty. Local architecture...