Saturday, August 27, 2011

A Hurricane Story


Since I seem to be stranded, but there is really no place to go, I decided to write a hurricane story.

It is 5 o’clock somewhere, even if it is a warm adult beverage (I don’t ask for much), I started looking for photos of hurricanes. I’ve been through many, some bad some not so much, and then I found this drawing.

The illustration was created by Dwayne Carpenter (always give credit to the artist) for a poster the Richmond Times-Dispatch did as a “Thank You” token for working through a hurricane.

I believe it was Isabel, but I could never get girls names straight. The newspaper knew a hurricane was coming and wanted to get prepared. They “asked” for volunteers to work through the night incase there were any problems.

Now newspapers have produced news in bad weather before, but for some reason they wanted to keep their usual schedule, so a team of designers volunteered to bring in sleeping bags and spend the night in their cubicles.

Remember the newspaper’s normal deadline is 10 pm and everything is digital, so it doesn’t take that long to send a newspaper 11 miles to the Hanover printing facility. With that said, we had our team at the ready.

And of course, ALL the supervisors “volunteered” to stay, except two who would relieve us in the morning. I guess it was a feather in your hat if you stayed up all night at work.

My wife wasn’t thrill about sitting at home alone in a hurricane, but she realized work-is-work and I’ve had plenty of overnight stays before, so off I went to work at 7 am.

Getting off the bus, the sky was blue and bright without any sign of bad weather coming.

A usual workday went by, but at the shift change, everyone but a few left. We were in for the evening.
The pages of the next day’s newspaper went quickly due to the newsroom wanted to leave as early as possible. The lights flickered once or twice, but we never lost power.

With the deadline met, some of the designers continued to work, clearing up all the work normally left over for the next day. About midnight, one of the supervisors told them to stop. Each found a spot to curl up and slept in the ever-increasing warm building.

Standing in one of the floor to ceiling windows, we could see the rain going sideways, but being in such a huge concrete monolith, there was very little sound of the wind.

The phone rang at the traffic desk and I assumed it was the pressroom asking for another page to be resent. To my surprise, I was some girl from the Virginia Pilot. In a panicked voice she said they might be sending up their newspaper, since their printing plant was getting the brunt of the hurricane. She said she would call back and hung up.

To my surprise, it seemed somebody had made arrangements with the Virginia Pilot that if they could not print, they would send us their pages and we would forward them to our presses to print (after our paper of course). Unfortunately this information had never trickled down to the people who would have to take the task, so when she called back, we exchanged information about our FTP sites and began the transfer.
Now this is a fast and well-practiced procedure on normal days, but the power was constantly shifting at the beach. The file format appeared to be PDF, but we had not tested any of the pages beforehand.

Once it was confirmed that all the pages had been received, we began the process to send them to Hanover. Our standard operating procedure for checking the pages is to view each color separation of every page. To our amazement, all the black was separating into full color.

So getting the best minds together, waking up some, we tried several tricks to change the outcome, with little success. The problem was in the settings making the PDF files.

Calling back, we tried to instruct the Pilot’s staff how to correct it at their in. (Now remember this is 2am and they are being blown around pretty good). They tried but could not correct the problem, so we sent all the pages in full color. It was a waste of time and materials due to poor pre-planning.

During our sending the pages, the Pilot called and said they could print, so we didn’t have to worry about it any more.

By now, it was 4 in the morning and everyone retired to their cubicles to rest. The wind continued to blow trash around outside, but little other could be witness except for a heavy rain.

Once I am up past midnight, I have problems going to sleep, so I just caught on some paperwork until dawn. I called my wife, but she didn’t answer the phone.

The morning staff came in all refreshed without any stories of the horror I would find outside. Passing the keys to the shop over, I packed up my little bag and walked out into the beautiful morning.

In a moment I realized there was no public transportation running, so I was going to have to hike it. As I walked up Broad Street, which was usually quiet, I could see very little damage. At VCU, there were a few bricks blown of a 100-year-old building. Turning into the Fan, everything seemed normal until at Strawberry Street there was an old tree down across Park Avenue. Figuring the downed tree was just a fluke I continued my journey.

Once passed the Powhite I turned into my neighborhood. Huge trees crisscrossed the streets wrapped in power lines.

Walking gingerly around and over I began to wonder what I would find when I got home. Would the 60-year-old house still be standing? Would all those trees that were hand planted be uprooted?

The house was still standing and a quick review of the yard seemed fine. One small tree in the back had fallen over and there were sticks all over the yard, but not bad looking at the surrounding neighborhood.
My wife said the whole house was shaking so she went to sleep. Not a bad plan.

Without electricity, I was summoned to go to the grocery store to get ice. So without sleep for 24 hours, I saddled up and rode over and around branches to find the store open for business. Water, ice, bread, and alcohol were in abundance.

The next few days, with the power out, we would walk up to a convenience store that did have power and get a cup of coffee. No television meant ready books in the sunlight or playing guitars or battery powered radios. Neighbors ran extension cords across the street to offer others generator power. Sandwiches and open fire grilled food seemed to get up by for the days of camping. Sleep when it gets dark, wake up when it gets light.

Of course, being the dedicated person I am, I was back at work the next day to hear the complaints from others.
So hurricanes are all how you take them. We need the rain. The lost of creature comforts make us appreciate them more when they return.

That’s the end of my hurricane story.

Remember the outdoor critters have to go through this interrupting their daily survival with unknown terror. Give them a treat tomorrow.

1 comment:

Art said...

I give them treats every day. The birdies were especially hungry...