Furious Hurricane Threatens Large Swath of East Coast Cities

HIL ANDERSON, SENIOR EDITOR
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Virginia Beach, VA – Hurricane Irene threatened much of the East Coast this weekend with high winds, heavy rain and widespread power outages in convention cities from the Carolinas to Boston. Airlines anticipated a flurry of flight cancellations and calls from travelers making new arrangements, and convention centers and show organizers were battening down the hatches.

Preparations up and down the coast were in full swing ahead of Irene’s arrival over the weekend. Federal emergency officials warned August 26 that the storm’s effects would not be limited to shoreline resorts. The widespread wind and rain was expected to cause road flooding and topple trees and power lines. Outages were expected to last several days.

New York City officials said the city’s mass transit system would probably be shut down as the storm approached, and the seaside casinos in Atlantic City were closed for the weekend.

The World Police & Fire Games at Jacob K. Javits Convention Center were to have run through Sunday but the event was rescheduled to conclude Saturday afternoon.

Coastal Sideswipe
The main punch of the hurricane remained a respectable distance from coastal resorts such as Myrtle Beach, SC, where no evacuation orders were in effect and officials did not expect any significant damage.

The Myrtle Beach Convention Center planned to carry out the move-in for the exposition portion of the World Amateur Handicap Championship, a golf tournament for about 3,000 players.

“The weather could be a little severe Saturday afternoon and evening with wind and rain but should not stop move in,” General Manager Paul Edwards told Trade Show Executive (TSE). “The convention center is two blocks from the ocean and we are making normal preparations such as moving outside furniture inside and checking that all outside equipment is secure.”

Peggy Daidakis, general manager of the Baltimore Convention Center, told TSE the Baltimore Summer Antiques Show was still scheduled to take place over the weekend.

The National Association of Chain Drug Stores (NACDS) said its Pharmacy & Technology Conference would take place as scheduled over the weekend at the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center in Boston. The association posted a notice to attendees on its website assuring them they were keeping an eye on Irene and had made arrangements for shuttles to deliver them warm and dry from area hotels to the convention center.

Hargrove Shuffle
The prospect of a wet and windy weekend in Washington kept the team at Hargrove on their toes. The Maryland company is in charge of set-up for the dedication of the Martin Luther King memorial on the National Mall and its connected festivities.

The event was postponed late Thursday after Hargrove had made extensive preparations involving 10 semi-truck trailers packed with gear plus 400 port-a-johns. In addition to a huge crowd, the dedication was to have been attended by plenty of VIPs from President Obama on down.

“Hundreds of thousands of attendees were expected on Sunday, and we had a large volume of equipment in place on the National Mall including 10 linear miles of bike rack, 30,000 chairs and significant staging,” CEO Tim McGill told TSE. “We were ready to respond to any change of plans and had undertaken an exhaustive review of our safety procedures and are organizing staff training.”

“We’ve already moved a gala earlier this week due to the earthquake,” McGill added.

Reach Tim McGill at (301) 306-9000 or tmcgill@hargroveinc.com; Courtney Dyer at (757) 385-2000 or cdyer@visitvirginiabeach.com; Paul Edwards at (800) 537-1690 or pedwards@cityofmyrtlebeach.com; Peggy Daidakis at (410) 649-7000 or pdaidakis@bccenter.org; Jennifer Sargeant, manager, NACDS Foundation programs and education, at (703) 837-4224 or jsargeant@nacds.org