I feel like I write this column over and over again. It’s probably not the last time.
About a month ago I explained that my long-planned Amtrak trip to Montreal, for which my son and I were learning French, had been canceled because of the heat from Canadian wildfires, a literal casualty of climate change. Undeterred, I pivoted, adding stops in Mystic, Connecticut, and Maine, with a longer stint in New York on either end.
Take that, fires! The weather wasn’t going to stop our vacation. Except it almost did.
The storms that knocked out power and caused mayhem here in Maryland on Aug. 8 weren’t as bad in Mystic, an adorable little town that I fully admit being drawn to because of the movie “Mystic Pizza.” But they did cancel outdoor evening plans to explore the scenic seaport, and the lingering issues made our train to Boston the next day so late that we almost missed our next one to Freeport, Maine, where friends would be waiting for us.
We settled into our seats with literally one minute to spare, and had gone about 20 minutes before the announcement that those storms had blown debris onto the tracks, and water had stalled out the engine of a train ahead of us, and this route, the Downeaster, was a no-go for the rest of the evening. So rather than spend $150 on a hotel, I made the decision to spring for a $160 Uber to Maine, two states away.
When I told this story to WJZ chief meteorologist Derek Beasley, he chuckled knowingly.
“Oh yeah,” he said. “It’s only gonna get worse!”
Well, that’s encouraging.
Like I said, I’ve been writing about weather-related travel snafus ever since I came to The Baltimore Banner, and it’s becoming more and more clear that “climate change is basically the new norm,” Beasley said. “It’s something we’re going to have to deal with. The Gulf of Mexico is the hottest it’s been since they started tallying the records of the warmth of water. The North Atlantic is seeing higher pressure, and that created the Canadian wildfire smoke our way. We’re seeing all these crazy extremes that don’t happen, and they’re gonna cause huge flight disruptions, extreme heat with the tracks warming.”
So what that means is, it’s probably a good idea to buy those refundable fares and the travel insurance, because there is no insurance, or assurance, if you’ll allow me to make a rhyme, that our trips are going to go off the way we’ve planned.
“We already have enough things to worry about when you travel. Adding the weather to it adds another element to it, another headache,” he said.
When I wrote about this whole thing a month ago, I put a query out on Facebook asking friends and readers if they’d had similar problems, and no one had. What a difference a month makes! The smoke that canceled our Montreal trip got into the cabin that Burtonsville’s Leyla Krikor rented in upstate New York, near the Canadian border. “I came out of the bedroom in the morning and it looked like someone had been chain-smoking inside,” she said.
My friend Alissa Waite Visser, who used to live an hour north of Baltimore in York but now lives in Florida, had her flight from West Palm Beach to Atlanta diverted to Jacksonville because of weather, and her connecting flight to Savannah, her would-be final destination, was canceled.
“Luckily I had carry-on luggage, so I got off the plane in Jacksonville, rented a one-way car, and drove to Savannah,” she said. Unfortunately, Delta declined to reimburse her for the rental car. Yuck.
Like Beasley said, this is our new normal. We’re going to have to adjust to the uncertainty. I wouldn’t be surprised if more people felt like my friend Deb Knepp in Florida, who’s nixed air travel partially due to possible weather snafus.
“I just drive if I want to go somewhere. I really wanted to go to Hawaii, but the volcano and now fires! Plus, all my friends have had, let’s call them, super challenging travel issues. Missed flights, canceled flights, endless delays. I’m too impatient for that nowadays.”
The only upside, Beasley said, is that we’ll get used to it, eventually.
“These extremes will become more and more common, and will be “Oh that’s old hat. We’ve seen that before!,” he said.
Good, I guess?