Yes, Here Comes the Story of the Hurricane

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In Florida, before man made global climate change, we had hurricane drills in grade school. We'd learn where the best place to hide was and how to skin, cook and eat alligator. This was before the internet... and apparently before satellite radar. Didn't they have advanced warning in the 80's? Did we learn nothing from the Seminoles who we took the land from?

Why would we learn how to ride out a storm in school? We were either tougher then or the storms were less severe? Maybe by launching the satellites to better forecast the storms we upset the balance of nature making them more severe? Mother nature said, "I'll show you! You can have all of that down there but the attic is mine."

band of brothers

Or maybe the storms are scarier because I am older with more responsibilities, a house to maintain and a family to care for? When the winds were beginning to whip the trees around and the rain was coming down sideways, I wished I was the college kids next door who were undoubtedly drinking warm beer and celebrating no school. Warm beer? No, this was before the power went out... they haven't had a working refrigerator for many months now. Ah to be that carefree again. We'd have to serve the toddler his yogurt on ice. "Your breakfast, sir. May I draw your bath?"

I admit, I was hesitant of the storms severity as it approached. The news seemed to be getting carried away with their predictions and getting way to excited about the potential doom and destruction. I have a hard time believing emotional journalists. Maybe they've cried wolf too many times or I remember the days when TV news warned you before the editorials.

We did buy supplies for the house and gas for the generator and cleared the yard of potential projectiles. And then we hunkered down as the first bands of wind hit.

Rain and wind and the power went out and we all slept on the first knowing that if a tree fell it would take out the upper reaches of the house first. Over the sound of the generator I listened to the storm while the family slept. All night I was awake assuming the worst and waiting for a tree to crash into us. Again, adulthood? Years ago, I may have relished the adventure and maybe even hoped for a free skylight until the landlord came to fix the damage?

All in all, our damage was minimal. A leak in the kitchen that I thought I had fixed and a little water in the basement and no power. It could have been much worse and luckily we didn't have to cook up any alligator.

Since storms cancelled our evening with The Flaming Lips - I had to go to Youtube.

Well, The Flaming Lips show in Philadelphia turned into “A bit of a bath - a big bath” (to quote the Woodstock documentary - although theirs was in reference to the bath the promoters would take upon getting the bill for the festival.) Although we had a nice evening and some great Indian cuisine downtown with some friends at Karma, our evening of Lips was cut off after about 6 songs when storms rolled in from the West and forced us all into the air conditioned “too unbearably hot outside” tent. Or in our case, the air conditioned and cold “too rainy for outside” tent. Actually, first Susan and I cut through the rain into an unused beer tent that had since closed up shop. We were dry for about 60 seconds until we were forced to vacate our dry dwellings by a water saleslady, “You’re not allowed in there!” In the larger tent we waited for the storm to pass while I watched the Weather Channel app on my Google Phone draw red cells around “our current location”. We were warned about the possibility of storms before the set started and were assured by the band they'd play as long as the weather cooperated and the promoters said it was safe. First came the rain and they played on - then the lightning. After an hour in the tent, and amidst the worst of the thunder and lightning, the staff announced we should leave, "the show is over." Although I was optimistic up until this point, I figured the venue had a curfew and this couldn't go on for ever. We left during the Philly accented and encouraging, “you’s all should leave now” but I knew the tone would turn less pleasant as I already heard a few staff grumble about how they were supposed have gone home 5 minutes ago. Into the rain we went. We regrouped with friends at Dave and Busters next door and played video games in wet clothes to wait until the weather gave us the time to walk to the hotel. Sitting in wet clothes at video games took me back to Adventure Island in Tampa and playing Pole Position in a wet bathing suit. Much like then, I’d have hated to be the kid in the seat after me. Ah well, all in all the bit of the set we saw was fun. Lots of confetti and balloons and great music. Next time, we will have to see them inside in August.

Holds and diverts and storms, oh my.

Bos - Mke - Ind This was our third leg for the day. We began in Omaha around 2Pm and flew Omaha to Milwaukee and then off to Boston. Boston to Milwaukee had us holding over Grand Rapids for 30 mins before we made the call to run to Indianapolis for more gas. You're holding over Michigan with fuel burning away and planes above and below you all doing the same - thinking about plan B. Chicago has been in and out of holding patterns for most of the day and airports are full of diversions already. This means a long wait for fuel and the potential for the Passenger Bill of Rights to be an issue. We've got a full flight and several infants on board that can be heard through the bullet proof cockpit door. To make things even more fun, our APU is inoperative which means we have no air conditioning on the ground and I am certain that if a dozen planes are waiting for fuel already, no one is going to be in too much of a hurry to get a ground air cart for us.

So looking around at where to land while the engines are chug chug chugging at our fuel. Dispatch and I decide Indianapolis is a good option and we have enough fuel to make it - if we leave "Right Now". And then Milwaukee calls to say the airport should re-open soon. But, if we wait and commit to it - no plan B if it closes again. It has opened and closed twice since we've been within earshot of them so the odds are pretty good that if it does open soon, it will close again before we get there. And then there is the "Right Now" line.

Indianapolis it is. Fly fast and burn more gas or fly slow and save some in case we need it for something else? There is weather in Indiana as well. Fly slow. "Folks, I know I told you it will be 40 mins until we land but it's going to be an hour."

Luckily for us, no one has landed in Indianapolis yet and we're first in line for fuel - but our crews have gone home for the night and Airtran is there to help. "How do you turn the light on in your baggage bin? Where does the aircart connect to the airplane? How many people does this palne seat?"

And I'm arranging for fuel and paperwork to release us to Milwaukee and the crying baby and the people that have connections and there is a cancelled flight next door so can we put more people on your plane and wow - it really is getting hot back there. What happened to the aircart?

Lets spin an engine to cool things off. Oh, we can't spin an engine. They are bringing more bags over now because of the cancelled flight and the cargo door is near the engine so it can't be spun until we load the bags.

"How do you turn that cargo door light on again?" They ask.

I tell the passengers the story, again. I ask them if they want to join me in the jetway, it is much cooler and it shouldn't be too much longer. A man is off to see his daughter give birth. She is in the hospital waiting for him. I tell him my last name is Stork and draw up the obvious connections. He laughs. So do others. Buys me some time.

The puzzle is coming together now. We've got the fuel and the paperwork and the extra bags and people now. Lets go to Milwaukee. The weather is still there and there is no good way to go around it... Time to pick our way through some storms.

Ind - Mke

The amazing thing about thunderstorms at night is that the moisture in the air carries the light from the lightning for miles after a strike. Even though we're not in any thunderstorms, with each strike the cockpit lights up so bright you're blinded for a moment. "I've asked our flight attendants to remain seated for their safety."

Air traffic controllers are talking to us but we've got this cell we're trying to fly around and we'll have to get back to you. And dispatch sends a message, "Ha! I did such a great job filling you around the weather and you decided to go right up the middle of it!"

No choice... the line has some breaks in it. And it does... aside from a great light show and few sizable bumps, we make it to Milwaukee to drop off a few, pick up a few and head to Minneapolis for the night.

What makes or breaks a night like this is the crew your assigned to. As the Captain, I have to be able to trust my team will do their jobs and allow me to delegate where need be. The great crews are the ones who know what needs to be done without hesitation and do so with a positive attitude. My crew easily handled all of our issues and even though we were tired and hungry - did so without hesitation and with a smile. This kept our passengers happy but more importantly - me happy!