Hurricane Report Six: Sunday mid-afternoon

Sunday 3:30 pm

I have been outside!

To get there, I did take the elevator. But they have not always worked. Elevator operation is not a management problem. Strong winds affect the individual shafts, so that just now one of the elevators simply wouldn’t come up to my floor. A more internal elevator did just fine. Dr. Stone (Headquarters Operation Officer, fellow strandee, and my immediate supervisor) left his room early this morning and had to take the service elevator; none of the normal elevators worked earlier.

The Dr. Stone story is of interest. As official convener of this gathering, the hotel wanted to make him very happy (maybe he’ll arrange other HQ meetings here), so they gave him a room on one of the very top floors. This meant that the swaying of the building had even more effect in his room than in mine. When the curtains started swaying against the window frame, and he realized there was no air movement in the room to cause this, then he decided the only reasonable explanation was that the room was moving! So he headed down to the ballroom at 5 this morning. Alas! I was still sleeping, so I missed that fun.

Once I arrived downstairs, the first thing I noted was the presence of towels in many locations: crammed against the bottom of the revolving door panels, near a few of the northern windows, and scattered strategically throughout the open walkways. I saw no wet ceilings (unlike the recent Hyatt experience), so I can’t vouch for why the interior walkways were damp. But they were.

I finished up the rest of my film by getting a few shots of the towels and re-visiting the “before” sites from yesterday. Sure enough, the patio where we “recepted” before our first meeting was flooded, demolishing the “melting patio stones” theory. Most windows facing the pool also faced small collections of detritus where the winds had dropped their treasures after cresting the building. I also saw some uprooted trees just out the front of the hotel; the gal in the gift shop (where I got another disposable camera; you can imagine the high quality my pictures are going to be!) explained that this was their third time out of the ground: Charley and Frances had pulled them out before, and the stakes and wires were insufficient to hold them in during Jeanne. Having seen in Kansas City how the wind can pull mighty trees out when the ground is saturated, I was not surprised by her tale.

Then I went outside to walk around. The north of the hotel is not as protected, so I found the “whole gale” evidence for the Beaufort scale. One palm trunk was simply broken in two, with the upper trunk dangling by its bark from the spearpoint of the lower trunk. The wind is shifting now to the south, indicating that the hurricane (or probably tropical storm by now) has moved to our west from the south. This agrees with the news reports, but I’m pleased to say I figured it out myself! (Okay, so I also know the prophesies they were issuing earlier.)

More e-mail responses:

  • First, I’m impressed that my son Stephen can use standard keyboard characters to indicate wind and wave movements, giving a rationale for floating debris at one side of the pool and sunken silt at the other. As I read his symbology (a perfectly understandable word that my machine wants to change to “zymology”), the wind along the top of the pool keeps the water circulating throughout the pool as well. I suppose they might still have the normal filtration system going; I’d not considered that possibility before, but I can tell that they’ve turned off the systems in the smaller pools/spas, so I think Stephen’s explanation is better.

  • With the wind now blowing from the south, my window is getting some pretty direct hits. The rain is considerably less, so part of the wallop is now missing. But it makes a nice backdrop to my typing just now. Oh! Part of the noise is actually my air conditioning unit! Please relax; the ballroom is now empty, and even Dr. Stone has returned to the upper floors. The General Manager has assured him directly that they will evacuate the upper floors before any real threats.

  • The HQ newsletter, the Bridge, may get a version of this report. Since the strandees involve the HOO, the NYI director, the Compassionate Ministries director, the General Secretary’s office manager, and maybe people from both USA Mission and World Mission, people may want to know what we all went through. In that case, I should probably put in some bravery stuff! (I’ll copy some of them into this e-mail and see if they want to be edited out!!)

  • My wife is getting better Orlando weather info than I am! The folks here are more concerned with keeping us curiosity-seekers off the streets. As if the rain and wind wouldn’t do that anyway. (Quick glance: a pack of four cars just drove by on the freeway immediately south of the hotel. That’s the largest group I’ve seen all day. They must not pay attention to the news, either. I bet they all jumped into off-limits swimming pools when they were younger. Or at least their drivers did.)

  • My reports are giving a different perspective than the news channels are giving. Imagine that!

  • And what was I doing here in the first place? HQ directors were holding their annual training session here. We had a guest lecturer who was to challenge us into Saturday, and we were to end up this morning with a worship service led by Dr. Cunningham, one of our denomination’s top leaders. With the hurricane warnings on Friday, Central Floridians began taking precautions. The airport was scheduled to close at 6 pm Saturday (later moved up even earlier, per one report). We had to switch our Sunday flights to Saturday (the choice of most folks) or till Monday or (better yet, per Russ, advisor) Tuesday. I have a couple writing assignments to complete; I haven't been in a tropical storm/hurricane for years; and I didn't want to risk being bumped from a Saturday flight and having to make last-minute arrangements in some other motel. So I opted for Tuesday. Others had better reasons for staying; mine was mostly curiosity!

  • The winds are continuing, but the water is abating. The white milk jug waterfowl have now gathered on the grass near the emerging mud flats with a bunch of their friends. There are smaller and darker swimmers on the remaining water, but their pond is draining pretty quickly. I tried getting a picture of them, but I suspect most of my pictures from this lofty nest will feature my reflection in the glass, since these automatic cameras have automatic flashes. Sometimes I’ve remembered to put my hand over the flash, and other times I’ve tried to take the pictures at an angle; but I imagine there’ll be a lot of middle-aged-bald-guy images in these shots. (Just for the family members who might worry: I thought of this before taking the pictures, so I’m properly dressed. Non-family members should not have read this parenthetical note.)

    As the palm fronds were all blowing the same direction, I felt a little embarrassed for them; it seemed their roots were showing. No, not the roots of the trees. The dark green of the palm fronds that are nestled one on top of the other hides the light green of the frond as it joins the tree trunk. I don’t know if the pictures will show it, but clustered around each palm trunk you could see the nearly blond roots of each green frond.

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