Lawlor / Irma, Harvey and Fairfield

Recreational vehicle trailers are scattered and tossed after Hurricane Irma blew through at the Sunshine Key RV Resort and Marina Sept. 13 on Big Pine Key, Fla.
Recreational vehicle trailers are scattered and tossed after Hurricane Irma blew through at the Sunshine Key RV Resort and Marina Sept. 13 on Big Pine Key, Fla.Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

As Hurricanes Harvey and Irma threatened the southeastern coast, some of our Fairfield-raised college students took different approaches. Harvey headed for Houston, where former Fairfield resident Shane DiGiovanna was a newly-minted freshman at Rice University.

Irma took aim at Florida, then Georgia and up to South Carolina where my senior daughter, Caroline and another Fairfield freshman, Tristan Carey, were beginning their year at the College of Charleston.


49 inches fell at Rice University in a very short period of time. But Rice is on a rise, so it never flooded, while unfortunately every place around it did. Rice became a little island sanctuary in Houston where residents sought shelter and safety/


Before my daughter even began attending three years ago, the College of Charleston recommended students have high rain boots on hand. The college floods at the drop of a little rain. A heavier rain and you see someone taking a kayak to class. They evacuated last year during Hurricane Matthew, and to be safe this year, the college evacuated days before Irma’s expected arrival


Shane suffers from a rare condition Epidermolysis Bullosa that causes his skin to easily blister. He must be bandaged much of the time and needs daily trained nursing care. All and all, Shane was quite happy when the rain began. He is Physics major and loves “extreme weather” events. The freshmen from his orientation group gathered the first night to watch a movie. Thumbing their noses at Mother Nature, they chose to watch Sharknado, a campy movie about freaky weather that sucks up man-eating sharks and deposits them in Los Angeles to wreak all kinds of havoc.

In a weird twist, the star of Sharknado Ian Ziering (of Beverly Hills 90210 fame) was soon, after the movie came out, was featured on Celebrity Apprentice, where his chosen charity was the EB Research Foundation.. In an even weirder twist, the host of Celebrity Apprentice when Ian was there became the President of the United States and was overseeing the nation’s response to both Irma and Harvey.

Shane’s family no longer lives in Fairfield, as they moved to be closer to the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, which is on the forefront of EB research and treatment. However, a group gathers every New Year’s Day in Southport and jumps into the harbor to raise money for EB research, while another growing group in Cincinnati jumps simultaneously into an icy pool.


My daughter Caroline knows the drill. They filled up her friend Bo’s vehicle with gas and headed to his grandparent’s house on an inland lake in South Carolina. She calls it “my Hurricane Home.”

What follows is 12-15 college kids take out the boats and kayaks and have the Best Week of their Lives.(until the next hurricane evacuation). Fairfield Freshman Tristan Carey decided to tag along, figuring this is how they do it in the south,


While Shane was initially doing well, watching Sharknado movie marathons and eating takeout pizza (Rice had power through either the grid or via generators), his nurses were cut off from him. One tried three different routes and was stopped by the water each time—and at one point had to be rescued by authorities. Another nurse exhausted different routes to finally return home only to find an alligator deposited on her front steps by the rising water. Eventually because of the potential for serious complications with Shane, he had to be taken to the hospital, where he stayed until the waters receded enough for the nurses to get through.


The Lake House was great. People were e-mailing us because they were worried about Caroline’s safety. I sent them pictures of Caroline smiling and driving a pontoon boat on a sun-dappled lake. We should all be doing as well as Caroline was during the evacuation.


Shane spent two days at the hospital, mainly waiting in the hall because of the short staff and overflow of incoming patients.

Caroline returned to her classes and learned their Fall Break was eliminated. She now has to go to class on her 21st birthday, a Saturday. She is now not happy.

Ian Ziering went on to make a total of five Sharkado movies and also raised over $320,000 for EB research.

Bo’s grandparents are cleaning up the “hurricane home” and praying for no hurricanes next year.

On Jan. 20, 19 days after a Fairfield group jumped in the water to support EB research, Donald Trump was sworn in as President of the United States.

Shane’s nurses, the bold and indomitable Delores and Cassandra, survived flood damage, being stranded in a car for 6 hours in rising waters, rafts of floating fire ants, and an alligator. I think we have the script for Sharknado 6.

Thomas Lawlor lives in Southport with his wife and two daughters. His column appears every other Friday. He can be reached by email at