The observations and opinions of a person who has no discernible insights or ideas.

Friday, September 30, 2005

In the Weak Outer Bands of the Storm 

I’m just about to leave on another trip, so I’m way overdue for a report of my last one.

Last week, my wife joined me for a trip to Florida. I was traveling so that I could sit in on some in-system testing, and she was traveling because she’s always wanted to go to Florida, and it seemed like a good time. We used my accumulation of sky miles to get her some tickets, and it only cost $10, along with two layovers for her on each leg of the trip. Still, we were able to fly together into and out of Florida, and that was nice. Then, after we had bought tickets for each of us, the airline declared bankruptcy. This was something of an omen, even though we didn’t notice any inconvenience due to Delta’s financial troubles.

In the days before we departed, a group of thunderstorms near the Bahamas got together and formed a tropical depression that became Tropical Storm Rita. Forecast tracks had it moving straight west across the gulf, missing us by a large margin, although at the time we were going to be at the edge the 5 day warning cone. Rita intensified and Tuesday it hit hurricane strength as it passed over the Keys.

Every TV in any building I entered was either on the weather channel, or on the news which was covering the storm even more than the weather channel was. We also checked out the National Hurricane Center’s site frequently, tracking the progress of the storm as it intensified and moved west. By Wednesday, it was one of the most powerful Cat. 5 storms ever recorded in the Atlantic, at which time it was about 300 miles south of our position.

Thursday, some of the outer bands of this gigantic storm passed over the Florida Panhandle, dumping rain in intense but isolated bursts on us. Friday, we went to a beach and saw the high surf (and would-be surfers finding that it wasn’t really as good as useful as it looked like it should be) and the wind. I even went for a walk on the beach and didn’t get heat exhaustion like the last time I had tried that. That afternoon, I got a call from my boss asking if I was all right. I guess it looked worse on TV, where all they could see was that the bands of the storm were reaching me.

Friday night, Rita hit the Texas/Louisiana area, and fortunately was greatly weakened. The last I heard was that it was responsible for 7 deaths, and 5 of those were people who died of carbon monoxide poisoning from a generator they were using while the power was out. It looks like everyone made out far better than was anticipated.

Elsewhere on my trip, not much happened. I had my ID checked by high ranking (E-7/8 first shirt) gate guards, and I had to deal with absent personnel who were let go before the (critical) need for them was gone. I failed to find any new geocaches, but I did find at least two old ones (no trip to Panama City is complete without finding about the county commissioner who lobbied for the four-laning of SR 77, an accomplishment sought for so long by so many). Also, I think I had my most turbulent flights ever. It’s kind of scary being in a 737 as it just drops for a second or so, and a bit scarier to be on a turbo prop plane that’s having drops like that several times a minute during the entire approach.

We’re alive, and we’re both home again, safe and sound. Next time, we’re driving.

(sidenote: Next week, we’re going to San Diego, which appears to be in the path of Tropical Storm (soon to be Hurricane) Otis.)

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