- (Photo: flickr/NASA Goddard Photo and Video)
The onset of Hurricane Irene has led to an impromptu transportation holiday throughout the Washington, D.C. metro area, as residents fear rain, wind, and the hassle of making their way around the city. People have retreated to gatherings of friends and families in a Saturday night more domestic than any in memory. No one wants to leave the house tonight, nor should they given the weather's mess.
Metro has, however, remained open despite the increasingly heavy rains.
WMATA has kept up live-tweeting and prepared for the weekend's hurricane with plenty of pump inspections, chainsaws, and more than 2,000 sandbags. Yet the transit authority recently announced that ridership is down 47% compared to an average Saturday. That percentage is likely to increase later in the day — no one's going to be riding once the hurricane hits for real. Common wisdom says "just stay home," and it's reflected in the statistics. Only around 100,000 people rode the rails today as of 5 p.m., whereas nearly 188,000 had done so last Saturday. Metrobus service is also reported to be light, with two minor detours due to downed wires.
Metrorail ridership now down about 47% from normal Saturday. As of 5pm, 100,151 trips today vs 187,886 same time last Saturday. ^DS #wmata
These statistcs again reflect that conventional belief that tonight, we should all be staying inside. I've been glancing at the DDOT webcams of the streets I talked about earlier, and sure enough, the city's intersections look wet as all hell. Who wants to walk and travel in that weather?
Metro's communications team is well-suited to dealing with the natural disaster, I'm happy to report, and are fighting rumors that Metro will close. I've observed multiple instances of WMATA spokesperson Dan Stessel replying to people who have heard that Metro service will be ending earlier or is running with difficulty. So far I haven't seen reports of any WMATA service problems. Metro has tweeted out photos of its Operations Control Center and its situation room, activated at 6 p.m tonight.
What's exciting about this natural disaster, as with the earthquake on Tuesday, is the solidarity that binds the District's residents together. I hope people are spending their night with others during this hurricane, with drinks, movies, and cheer, even as they're monitoring the weather and checking for any flooding or damage. I like the mood that has accompanied the out-of-the ordinary events, as households brew up hurricane drinks, play board games, listen to hurricane playlists, break out the coloring books and crafts, and spend time truly together.
As I type now, I'm in a house with close to a dozen people who are prepared to watch movies, eat Chinese food, and are hoping to ride out the storm together ... hunkered down and not planning to take transportation anywhere, whether by bike, train, bus, car, or anything else. It's a moment where people are standing still for once, beautifully slowed down to appreciate and monitor the night. All these events provide an avenue for as much thoughtfulness and connection as it does for drama, which I respect and appreciate. People have rapidly come together for these apocalyptic, frenzied days this week. These are the right actions and reactions.
Let's hope the East Coast damage that results from all the rain and wind is as minimal as possible. D.C., at least, seems poised for the hurricane to come. As of Metro's fourth Irene press release, sent at 7:45 p.m. today, Metro plans to remain open for business through all normal hours today.
um...why does #wmata seem like the most functional transit system right now though? we're closer to the storm than boston and nyc.