A stormy horizon

WordCamp US 2023 Adventures


This last weekend was WordCamp US in National Harbor, Maryland. Close enough to the US capitol that we could have walked if we wanted to. WordCamp was fun and amazing as it always is, but most of this post is going to be about how we got there.

Cate and Sophia left on Wednesday morning about 10 am. There was a slight delay in Detroit, but they got to National Harbor just fine.

Headed for Detroit

Thursday morning Ema, Graham (Sophia’s boyfriend), and myself left early. We got up around 3, met at the house at 4, and made it to the airport for check in.

When we got to our gate there were maybe 60 people in line to talk to the gate agent, which seemed odd. What we found out was that there was a storm over Detroit, and these people had been headed there from Texas. They diverted to Cincinnati, then tried again and diverted to Grand Rapids. So they were trying to get to the same place we were. Little did they know… (insert foreboding music here)

We got on our plane with no issues, but they said that since there was still a storm we were going to wait to leave to let it clear out some. We sat in the plane for about an hour and then headed to Detroit. We landed just about the time our other flight was supposed to leave, but I was pleased to see it was also delayed, so we had about an hour to get to the gate. That’s a nice comfortable time in Detroit.


When we got to the gate we saw that it was delayed even more. I had some free passes to the Delta Sky Lounge, so we went down there and had some food. At the right time we went back and found it had been delayed some more. We decided to sit and wait. I went up to the gate and asked the gate agent they were gate checking luggage. She said “I wouldn’t bother, there are only about 35 people on this flight”. I asked if there were any open first class seats and she said “yes, lots, you want one?” I told her I had 2 companions, and if we could only get one then I’d give it to my daughter, she’s never flown first class.

The gate agent had some trouble with it and went away for about 30 min to see her supervisor and came back and gave us all first class tickets! Yay!

Then we sat at the gate and watched the delays happen about every 20 minutes.

What was really going on…

I asked what was up with the delays and she said that the morning storm had done a number of things. One is that the employee parking lot had been flooded up to the wiper blades, and the employees all lost their cars.

Additionally, the tunnels used to get to the airport were flooded, and the police weren’t letting people into or out of the airport. This means new pilots and crew couldn’t come fly us away, and the old ones couldn’t get out to sleep.

What made it really hard was restaurant and shop people couldn’t be where they needed to be. Most of the shops and restaurants didn’t open until almost evening. We went to a Max & Erma’s restaurant and there was a line about 45 people long. We decided to come back later.

When we did we found that there were only two people running the entire restaurant. They had both been there all night and couldn’t get home, and relief staff couldn’t get in.


It was about 3pm when we went to M&E’s and while were there Graham texted me and said they had canceled the flight. I called Delta, and they got us on the last three seats (in Gen Pop) on a 9:08 flight. WHILE I was on the phone with them it was delayed to 9:50.

We tried to get back into the sky lounge, but they had closed two of the four due to lack of staff. We went to the main one and they said we had to go back go the smaller ones and get proof we had used vouchers. So I went and stood outside the doors while the mimed to me that they were closed, and then finally came to ask what I wanted. I got the vouchers, and we got in.

The flight was delayed until 10:10 almost right away, but then wasn’t delayed again. Until much later.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch…

I started seeing things on my phone about weather back home. A friend tweeted this image of her TV with poor Ellen talking about the weather.

Back home another storm was tearing things up. There was a tornado about 5 miles north of Grand Rapids. My niece was at our house alone. I texted her and asked if she was ok, and she said yes, when she heard the tornado sirens she made it to the basement just as the power went out. Her phone eventually died, the power was out for three days.

So, so close…

Just before 10 we headed to our gate. Over the speaker we heard an announcement that our plane had arrived, and we would begin boarding soon. So close…

We got to the gate and people began coming off the plane. Then the gate agent got on the speaker and said that there was something wrong with the plane’s control panel, and they’d try to fix it, but suspected we’d have to wait for a new plane. They delayed to 11.

We were right across the hall from Max & Erma’s, which was wide open by this time. We all hopped up to the bar, ordered some drinks and pretzels, and settled in to wait. I looked at the radar and saw a band of purple from Flint to Lansing coming at us fast. It didn’t look good.

A young woman sat next to me and said she was flying to Traverse City. Right through that storm, and big planes don’t go there. Something must have registered on my face because she froze and said “WHAT?”. We had a short conversation and she called someone and stayed on the phone for the rest of the evening.

The Tornado

At about 10:30 my phone started buzzing and making an angry noise. Then I realized everyone else’s phones were doing the same thing. I looked at mine and read that there was a tornado on the airport grounds and we should take shelter immediately. Every single person in the restaurant ignored it and put their phone away. NOTHING changed.

By this time I was pretty sure we were getting a hotel for the night. I went to the Delta desk, which was right next door and asked if they still offered duress rates at hotels. I told her there were three in our party. She gave me discount coupons for “two twin rooms”.

Now remember our cast. Me, my daughter, and my OTHER daughter’s boyfriend. Who was sharing rooms?

At last…

Fortunately we didn’t have to find out. The storm was moving so fast that it cleared the airport in about 20 min, and we had a new plane. After 14 hours in the airport, we boarded at about 1:30am and flew away.

I crawled into bed with Cate at 3am, and got up at 7 and went to WordCamp.

One Comment

  1. Whoa! Though I was texting with you most of this time, I couldn’t possibly have imagined this entire episode happening as you lived through it. You were so gentle and patient through it all. I and most people I knew would have blown our tops by this time. And what a nightmare for so many people (passengers, transit travellers, employees, staff, crew)! I hope everyone got to where they needed to be without too much damage other than a reminder of how Mother Nature can be really moody!

    I know you did go on to have a really good two days after that. Can’t wait to read the posts!

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