Nick Mulcahy

October 31, 2012

BOSTON, Massachusetts — The American Society for Radiation Oncology (ASTRO) 54th Annual Meeting was waylaid by what has been called a once-in-a-lifetime storm.

ASTRO officials closed the meeting early on Monday as the winds from Hurricane Sandy progressively worsened in the city of Boston, but by Tuesday morning, the meeting was up and running with only minor schedule changes.

But on Monday, the hurricane made its presence felt. Meeting attendees were informed by loudspeaker at the Boston Convention Center that there was a change in the daily plan. Namely, all meeting sessions were ending at 12:30 pm and the exhibit hall was closing at 1:00 pm. Attendees were instructed to immediately board buses to comply the city's decree that no private bus or public transportation could operate after 2:00 pm.

The early closing seemed unnecessary at first because there was neither heavy rain nor overwhelmingly powerful wind at the time. However, within a half hour, winds were strong enough to rock the buses, packed with meeting attendees, back and forth as they stopped in traffic, and drivers had difficulties closing bus doors after passengers disembarked. The uptick in wind speed occurred hours before Hurricane Sandy made landfall in New Jersey.

One of the victims of the schedule interruption was the plenary session. ASTRO officials did their best to put the show on and videotaped some of the plenary presenters, all of whom were presenting studies that had the shared theme of patient-reported outcomes. However, as of this writing, these presentations have not been posted online.

ASTRO adeptly adjusted to evolving needs. For instance, on the first day of the meeting, there was no shuttle service to the 2 hotels within walking distance of the Boston Convention Center; however, once it was clear that the city was in the hurricane's path, ASTRO added shuttle buses to save guests from being drenched during their walk.

ASTRO public relations official Michelle Kirkwood told Medscape Medical News that the convention center had no lights after the worst of the storm blew through on Monday night. She and other ASTRO officials found a darkened building when they arrived at 5:30 Tuesday morning. Fortunately, after a short time, the lights were back on. It was unclear whether there had been a power outage or whether some precautionary measure shut down the electrical system.