• United States

Hurricane Isabel whips through IT agendas

Sep 18, 20034 mins

Even as Hurricane Isabel began to roll onto the U.S. East Coast early Thursday, the storm was already wreaking havoc with scheduled events and agendas affecting the IT community.

HP’s plans to host a press event in Washington, D.C., announcing its worldwide strategy for small and midsize business took a beating from the hurricane as HP’s Chairman and CEO Carly Fiorina and HP’s new Senior Vice President of SMBs John Brennan were unable to fly to the event due to the storm, according to an HP spokeswoman in Europe.

The event will still take place as scheduled for those already in the area, though the senior HP executives will now be participating via audio and Webcasts, she said.

AOL of Dulles, Va., is also in the storm’s path. However, representatives for the company in the U.K. were uncertain if the hurricane would affect daily operations at the company’s headquarters. The approaching storm also comes as the board of AOL’s parent company, AOL Time Warner, is reportedly scheduled to vote in New York Thursday on whether or not to drop AOL from its name. Company representatives could not immediately be reached to comment on whether the hurricane would affect plans for the board meeting.

Other corporations potentially in danger of having schedules rearranged by Hurricane Isabel include MCI (still legally known as WorldCom) in Ashburn, Va., and Red Hat, in Raleigh, N.C.

Verizon Wireless has network engineers on full alert to ensure wireless service remains available, the company said in a statement, but advised customers in the area affected by the storm to fully charge wireless phone batteries and to make sure additional fully-charged batteries are on hand for back-up power.

The storm also threatens to wreak havoc with government activities in the U.S. capitol, including hearings on IT-related issues.

The U.S. Office of Personnel Management announced on its Web site that all federal agencies in the Washington, D.C., area will be closed on Thursday and possibly Friday, and that only emergency employees are expected to report to work. Meanwhile, the U.S. House of Representatives recommended its workers stay at home for the day as well.

The U.S. Senate will still open for business at 9:30 a.m. Eastern Time, according to a spokeswoman, though that was subject to the status of the storm.

Various Senate committees have decided to shut down on Thursday and Friday, including the Commerce, Science, and Transportation committee, which has been hearing proposed legislation from Senator Sam Brownback, a Kansas Republican, over copyright issues in the 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act affecting Internet service providers, users and the Recording Industry Association of America.

Other House and Senate Committees are still in the process of deciding on an individual basis how to deal with the weather. For example, it is unclear if the storm will push back Tuesday’s hearing by the House Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade, and Consumer Protection concerning legislation on databases and information collection. However, a Webcast is still pending, according to the Committee’s Web site.

Isabel also threatens to delay business travelers, as airlines and airports on the East coast warned of delays and flight cancellations.

Individual airlines were announcing delays and flight cancellations, including United Airlines which cautioned passengers to check for changing flight status, while US Airways and US Airways Express announced the cancellation of nearly 400 flights through Friday at a number of airports in Virginia and the Carolinas, in a statement Thursday.

Hurricane Isabel was also becoming something of an online spectator sport with numerous Webcams trained on the progress of the storm, including those linked to the hurricane advisories Web site, which also included links to chat rooms devoted to Isabel.

Scarlet Pruitt in London contributed to this report.