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Hurricane Sandy has been all over the news. Here is the account of how I experienced it.

I was scheduled to present a scientific poster at the Digital Pathology Association annual meeting, taking place in Baltimore, MD. So Sunday 28th I left NY by train, and arrived in Baltimore. I must admit I finished the poster on the train (in the Acela trains they have electric plugs and free open wifi, which is awesome), and printed it at a local Kinko’s one hour before the end of the scheduled set-up time, which was 6pm.

I went in the Baltimore Convention Center Hilton with my poster, set it up, stayed throught the cocktail reception, and left at 8pm. It was cold and raining, but I had an umbrella, and it was not a big deal.

The next day, Monday 29th, getting to the Convention Center from my hotel, only 2 blocks away, was not too pleasant. As a matter of fact, the wind made it difficult to keep the umbrella straight, and it was raining hard. But by the time the conference session was over and I had to return to the hotel, it had become a nightmare.

I held on to the umbrella really tight, but the wind proved to be stronger. With maximum sustained winds of 90 mph (150km/h), my umbrella was turned into a formless wreck of twisted and broken metal tubes. The rain was horizontal, and there were almost no cars (no taxi service) on the streets. I found out later that police had imposed a curfew of 6pm. It was 6:30pm. The rain drops hit my glasses like rocks, and they felt very very cold; so much so that my face and hands were absolutely red and numb. Traffic lights were swinging, tree branches flying, and even a piece of ceiling plaster flew off the Sheraton’s parking lot entrance and hit me in the face (although not hard enough to fix me). At times I would take two or three steps without touching the ground, and could not stop at the traffic lights, good things there were no incoming cars. By the time I got to the hotel I was completely soaked, from the raincoat all the way to my underwear, and frozen.

Of course, my train back had been cancelled, and news were coming in about power outages in New York, evacuation order (in the map I show the evacuation zones, and where I live marked by a circle), airport, tunnels and subway closed…

The next day a wonderful lady from Tzell travel group (one of the very few that actually made it physically to their NY offices: that’s what I call dedication to customer satisfaction, I salute that determination) tried her best to help me find a way out of Baltimore. She even got me a confirmed reservation in the next scheduled flight, although there was a big waiting line from a ton of people wanting to head back to NY, but the flight was later cancelled. Airlines’ information and systems were confusing, showing available seats in cancelled flights, and things like that. Amtrak was not helping either, postponing any information until the night. But in the end, it was completely impossible.

Luckily the hotel offered me to prolong my stay as needed, honoring the negotiated rate. But due to personnel not being able to make it to the hotel, the rooms were not being serviced. So one more night. I had only packed for one night. The stores were all closed. And no cleaning service at the hotel. Time to hand wash my clothes.

The next day, Tuesday 30th, I received a message from my building automated system alerting me that there was no power (which meant no hot water, no elevators to any of the 50 floors, and of course no electricity) anywhere south of 39th street. That meant both my apartment and office. Very appropriately listening to Eurythmics – Here Comes The Rain Again 😉 metacafe.com/w/sy-5749511

I took the opportunity to work a little bit more, and also attended the American Society for Information Science and Technology meeting, taking place at the same Convention Center.

It was becoming a personal imperative to be able to come back to NY. But after yet another cancelled flight, and another waiting period from the train company, I finally got a reservation… on the Thursday November 1st 03:54am train. Not being one to accept so many set backs in a row, I have decided to look for alternative methods. Rental car companies would not allow me to rent a car. But I have found a bus operator that will take me to NY Wednesday 31st in the morning. [Update: buses not running today either, so I have to wait for the train at 03:54am tonight Update 2: Train cancelled, finally leaving by bus the next day] That was part one of dealing with Hurricane Sandy. Let’s see what happens once I get to New York…