My Life as a Traveler

Hurricane Coming

This is the view from my front yard looking across the Hampton Roads harbor. No hurricane yet!

What do you do when a hurricane is coming and you’ve got flight reservations?

The weather can be so exciting on the East Coast. I’m originally from Oregon, where the biggest weather event, one that will stop flights (besides volcanoes – it’s been a while for that one) is an ice storm, and it’s somewhat rare.  However, here in Tidewater Virginia, we have some pretty severe storms a few times a year which may turn out to be… gasp…  hurricanes!

The entire area gets all aflutter when we have a hurricane warning. People buy generators (during hurricane Isabel about 10 years ago we lost power for 12 days), canned goods, lots of water, and start emptying their freezers. (Honey! Mystery meat for dinner!) The gas stations have lines as long as Disneyland at Easter and everywhere you go, the only topic of conversation is the weather, or rather, your personal state of preparedness for it. There’s a all-for-one, one-for-all spirit about the whole business.

The big deal around here is usually the flooding – so many homes are at sea level or just a few feet above. We’re lucky because our elevation is 13 feet. There’s a lot of lowland that gets flooded before the waters reach us.

We are leaving for Fort Lauderdale on Saturday morning and Earl is supposed to sweep the coast from midnight tonight until about noon tomorrow. First they said it would come directly over us as a Category 3 (111 to 130 mph winds), which could really mess a lot of people up and will almost certainly mean 12 days without power, at least. However, as of now (5pm Thursday) they say it will bypass our neighborhood and just graze the outer banks of North Carolina, south and east of us, and be out of here by Friday afternoon. Phew!

But what if we were really worried about this storm to the point where we might cancel or change our travel plans? Many airlines will offer free rebooking to/from the same destination within a seven day period. If it’s not prominently displayed at the top of the website (love USAirways – at the top of their site there’s a red “travel advisory” link), you need to call the airline and see what their policy is regarding changing plans due to disruptive weather. We’re flying out of Newport News on Saturday, and we have until 1130pm tonight to change our reservations for free, if we wanted to. If we lived in Massachusetts or Maine, we’d have until sometime tomorrow to change.

Nice to know! However, it looks like, even after all the excitement and weather-watching, Hurricane Earl will be a non-event, so our plans will stay the same. So, Fort Lauderdale, here we come!

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