September 12, 2008

Discretion is the better part of valor?

Posted in family at 9:40 pm by Michael

Run Away!

Run Away!

We were in Austin since Wednesday night for the Out & Equal workplace conference (see posts below). My presentation was Thursday afternoon (more on the in another post), so my official work there was done, although there were more conference things going on until Saturday. We were planning on going home Sunday afternoon.

Then Ike showed up.

Over the past couple of days, people all along the Gulf coast have been keeping an eye on the approaching storm. Austin is a ways inland, but there were concerns that even there, this very massive storm would have an impact on the city – potentially with a loss of power and other challenges.

We got a letter from the hotel last night saying that they were tracking the storm, and if they lost power, they had emergency generators for some elevator operations, some emergency lighting, and limited foodservice. No ventilation, and certainly no AC. For the last three days, it was in the high 90’s, with very high humidity there.

As of last night, all the flights today (Thursday) out of Austin for Friday (today) were all sold out. The Houston airport was closing at 6pm Friday (closed as I post this), and the Austin airport was not scheduled to operate on Saturday, with the requisite flight cancellations.

This morning, I woke up a little before Anh and Samwich did, and checked out the weather. There was no definitive forecast for the storm’s effect in Austin, but there were already FEMA people in our hotel (dealing with evacuees, and preparing Austin too).

I checked for flights out of Dallas (DFW) to get back to Seattle today. Yes, there were flights, direct on Alaska, and there were still rental cars available.

Hmm… there were a bunch of other folks from Microsoft at the conference, and I had hoped to spend more time there.

I thought about this, thought about what it would be like to ride out a major storm in a hotel with no power or ventilation, in a city with potentially large number of evacuees coming from even more impacted locations.

Anh was stirring, and I said, “Anh, how about if we leave now. Let’s drive to Dallas and get a flight out of there.”

Anh immediately agreed, and we got ready to leave. I sent email to my co-workers offering folks a ride, but no one else decided to come with us, although some people changed flights and were going out of other airports.

The traffic leaving Austin was pretty heavy, probably both because of the time of day, but also because there were a lot of people on the road. For the next hundred miles or so, there were temporary signs telling hurricane evacuees where to exit, and where they could stay. It was honestly a little spooky.

So, we left.

We got to the airport in plenty of time, got on our flight, and off we go.

As we were driving I was thinking about the choices that we have that others don’t have. We were able to rent a car without a thought. I rebooked the travel without a thought, and got to where we needed to go. If the Dallas thing didn’t work out, then we’d just drive until we found an airport or a flight that did. Two cell phones, two laptops with data cards and a GPS give you that flexibility.

Before I booked it all, I was starting to feel a little trapped.

What if there was no power – no milk for Samwich – hot and steamy on a high floor in a hotel that we had to walk up and down the stairs to get in and out. What if? How would I have felt if I didn’t take the choice that was available to us, and the storm was a little more to the west, and a little worse than thought?

I can only imagine how the residents of that area (or, lets say New Orleans, pre-Katrina) felt when facing such an impending area. They have babies. They have loved ones. They want to protect them too.

The choices that I have are a fortunate gift, and I was reminded of that today.

I hope that Ike isn’t as bad as forecast, and the people of the region are in our thoughts.

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