Washington, DC – The East Coast battened down its hatches on Friday as Tropical Storm Hanna moved in with strong winds and heavy rains. Baltimore and Washington, DC were among the convention cities expected to see heavy weather over the weekend as Hanna followed a projected path that included landfall at nearly hurricane strength in the Carolinas followed by a northward swing along the coast toward Boston.
“We are not expecting hurricane force winds; however, we are expecting gusts of 50 miles per hour and up to 1.5 inches of rain,” Courtney Dyer, general manager of the Virginia Beach Convention Center, told Trade Show Executive. “We have checked our emergency systems and made plans to support any incidents that may escalate. We have not yet cancelled any events.”
Rain began falling in Raleigh, NC Friday but officials still managed to officially cut the ribbon on the new Raleigh Convention Center before Hanna’s scheduled arrival in force during the overnight hours.
Most venues were anticipating some strong winds but nothing like the hurricane-force gales that buffeted New Orleans on Labor Day. “The forecast here isn’t calling for more than one day of rain and some wind,” said Sara Hisamoto, public relations manager for the Baltimore Area Convention and Visitors Association.
There were no major events scheduled at the Baltimore Convention Center over the weekend, but that was not the case in nearby Washington where the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) was to wrap up its Life@50 annual meeting at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center on Saturday.
The citywide event drew an estimated 25,000 attendees and was to conclude Saturday with addresses made via satellite by presidential candidates John McCain and Barrack Obama. There was no indication from AARP Friday that the event would be closed early.
“A this point, we are in very close contact with both the National Weather Service and the DC Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency, and we are briefing our customers accordingly,” said Sean Sands, special assistant to the general manager at the convention center. “As we get more definitive information about the storm’s expected impact, we will work with AARP to take the necessary precautionary measures to ensure the safety of our attendees.”