Irregular Operations – March 8th, 2008

“Armageddon!” came the cry through the radio amidst the roar of gale force winds. “Armageddon!”

It was the desperate voice of one of the ground crew at Pierre Elliot Trudeau airport last night as we were hit by the most intense storm I have ever seen. A wall of snow barrelled into the airport at a hundred kilometers an hour and didn’t relent in its onslaught for the entire night. Visibility was zero, the windows shook and the wind whistled through every microscopic crack and opening. It goes without saying that nothing was taking off or landing.

The storm was so intense that at least one major highway connecting the airport to downtown was shut down. Shuttle services stopped and the line for taxis downstairs was over four hours long. All hotels within ten miles of the airport were booked solid, not that it mattered since you couldn’t go anywhere anyways.

We were up problem shooting with guests until two am, hours after all the other airline staff had given up and gone into hiding. All around us the stranded were sleeping, playing cards, one young man was even meditating. There were people everywhere, on benches, the floor, on the baggage belts, behind counters, then when we finally went upstairs to escape from it all, it went on. All through the hallways of the administration building people sleeping on the floor, clutching greedily to blankets from the fire department. It was an obstacle course to get to the office trying not to hit a blonde woman in the head when you opened the door.

I’ve never seen anything like it. It felt like a war or a natural disaster.

The morning crew was having trouble getting in, many weren’t going to make it at all so having no sleep and witout much idea of what we were going to do for people we set out again at 5am to face the hordes.

By 7:30 a few other employees had made it in and we’d managed to deal with the guests who had immediate flights though hundreds were still for the time being stranded. With the help of some coworkers we dug my car out and headed out onto the eerily vacant freeway. Then in the rearview mirror I saw something terrifying. Right behind me in a deadly phalanx of steel were five snowplows bearing down. Sleep deprived and barely gripping the surface of the road I never the less punched the gas since a potential spinout on concealed ice was better than a guaranteed snow plow enema.

We ate a ridiculously large breakfast at a funky little breakfast cafe and bubbled in a strange sleep deprived haze of post-traumatic hysteria. Somehow I managed to make it the rest of the way home, carve out a little parking space out of the mountainous snow drifts on my street, crawl up to my room and into a ten hour coma.

I’d write so much more about the absurdity, the Lord of the Flies at the airport, but people deserve some respect for making it through a harrowing experience of winter’s wrath when all they were planning for was a week on some southern isle. I’m also in need of some sleep. I need to try and get my body back on track if I’m to function at all tomorrow. Lots to do, lots to get done. Okay. Let’s go.

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One comment

  1. jannx · March 14, 2008

    A friend from school lives in Montreal now and I was talking to him. He said that the snow in his yard is 6 feet and he can just see the top of his fence in the snow. That’s one hell of a winter snow accumulation. Ottawa got nailed badly too from what I got from a friend there. Pretty crazy stuff!

    Sleep is good. Any pix of sleepers in the halls?

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