My dad is directly in the path of Hurricane Ike right now.
Not because he is a dumbass, but because he is one of the folks in charge of getting out the Houston Chronicle. The paper has to come out, no matter what!
The big wigs at the Chron have rented out rooms at a hotel across the street for the staffers when their shift is over, but Dad isn’t sure they’ll be able to make over there, as that will be in the wee morning hours.
He has been emailing updates from the newsroom and I thought I would post snippets of them here – a sort of liveblog of Ike.
Dad is hunkered down at the Chron building in downtown Houston right now. The windows of the newsroom have been boarded up so the newspaper folks won’t be writing the paper amidst shards of glass.
Anyway, here are some reports from my dad:
Durn, I forgot to fill both tubs with water. They say if the power
is out for several days, the water plants may be affected. Might be
tough to flush the toilets without water. I did pull the grills into
the garage, so I can cook any food that will thaw if the power goes out.
It’s a dangerous storm. Galveston and Surfside are being destroyed
right now. There also was a big fire on Seawall Blvd. that destroyed a
business. It’s not the wind, it’s the giant storm surge. Kind of like a
tsunami. Scores of people already have had to be rescued; stupid folks
who wouldn’t leave the coast.
We’re told that the hotel will send a shuttle bus for us and that
they will keep a skeleton crew on hand to cook us dinner, breakfast and
lunch. Hope that’s true, but we will may not want to go over there
tonight if the winds are too bad. We’ll just have to wait and see.
All is calm in the office. Everyone brought snacks and sleeping
bags. There are a bunch of air mattresses and plenty of bottled water.
We had barbecue sandwiches and chips for lunch (not very good, sad to
say, but better than nothing).
I think our biggest challenge will be after the storm hits tonight
or early tomorrow. We have generators but they’re short-term. If all
the power goes, we won’t be able to produce a real paper. We have a
staff in San Antonio to print an 8-page paper. Reporters can upload
stories from their laptops. We have a staff in an emergency bunker in
Conroe that can keep producing the Web page.
It’s going to get pretty scary outside later.
5:00pm – about the Chronicle’s bunker (I don’t know the source of this, other than my dad, but I will post it when I find it):
This is interesting about our bunker:
It’s an old Cold War-era underground bunker about 50 miles north of
Houston in Conroe that we lease with several other companies (like
Continental Airlines).The fortresslike shelter was built by a Taiwanese
businessman, Louis Kung, who founded Westland Oil Development Corp. in
Kung moved the head office to Houston in 1961, and because of
his fear of nuclear war, he bought hundreds of acres outside Conroe to
build an office building and a two-story underground bunker.
bunker has gun turrets built into the pagoda-style buildings that lead
into a fallout shelter, which was equipped to sustain thousands of
people for as long as three months.
In recent years, the
40,000-square-foot bunker has been converted by Westlin Corp. into a
facility where companies can secure data servers from loss because of
natural or man-made incidents. Hearst has its emergency operations
there for us.
In an office building near the bunker are work
stations for staffers. Equipment in the 1,870 square feet of space in
the bunker is cooled by 60 tons of air conditioning being pumped in.
Officials just announced a 7 p.m. curfew in Harris County.
Boss just served up pizza and salad in the lobby; really good stuff.
We have gotten new instrux. When the winds get high enough, all of
our elevators will be shut down so no on gets caught in one if (when)
the power goes off. We also have a temporary newsroom set up on the
eighth floor; much smaller than our fifth floor operation but safer;
also takes less power to run it.
Two hours until our first print deadline.
The elevators have just been closed "for safety reasons." Winds are rising. Not really much rain.
We ratcheted up our deadlines to 8 p.m. for the first edition
(it’s normally 11 p.m.), and we we missed it by just a few minutes. Not
bad. Hopefully, now, we’ve given our pressroom enough time to help our
carriers get the papers on folks’ doorsteps before the really gigantic
winds hit in the wee hours of the morning.
We won’t be delivering to any places inside the mandatory
evacuation zones, but hopefully other folks will get their papers.
We’re also offering a complete e-edition of the paper to anyone who has
power and can log in. You guessed it: The ID and password are : Ike.
The next deadline is 9 p.m., although we may go a bit later to try to get more news in while the electricity is on.
Dad is now hunkered down at the hotel across the way from the paper. The hotel WITHOUT boarded up windows. Better sleep with the blanket over your head just in case!