ASTRO Meeting Weathers Hurricane Sandy

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Calm weather prevailed outside the Boston Convention and Exposition Center on Tuesday, but winds howled in bean town on Monday—prompting city officials to shut down all public transportation in the afternoon. Organizers at the American Society for Radiation Oncology (ASTRO) annual meeting followed suit, suspending all afternoon activities.

“We obviously had to ensure the safety of the 11,000 people here for the meeting,” said Michelle Kirkwood, media relations manager, ASTRO. “At 12:30, we closed all sessions. The shuttle buses were legally permitted to run until 2:00, so we needed that 90 minutes to safely get everyone to their hotels. The plenary scientific session was scheduled for Monday at 2:30. That session was recorded, and we are hoping to get that online as soon as possible.”

All meeting activities resumed at 8:00 a.m. on Tuesday, Oct 30, with the presidential address rescheduled for mid day. To catch up on lost time, ASTRO organizers combined the presidential address with the organization’s Annual Business Meeting. “Right now it’s a little grey and a little wet outside,” mused Kirkwood at noon on Tuesday, Oct 30. “They said the high would be about 70 degrees. It did rain yesterday [in addition to the heavy wind], and the drains were stressed, but not flooded. We still have power and everything is up and working.”

The last session ends on Wednesday at 4:45, and Kirkwood has worked with local hotels to make sure guests are accommodated, particularly those who may have had canceled flights. CNN reports that mass transit is set to reopen in Boston, but that most airlines are suspending service in Boston today (Tuesday). Boston Logan Airport tweeted that it is open, but travelers should check with airlines to see if their flight is cancelled.

Planning for the weather began last week, but varying predictions for the Boston area made everything a challenge. For the benefit of attendees, ASTRO added additional shuttle buses and extra routes for even the closer hotels. “It was great that we were able to continue on time today,” added Kirkwood. “We don’t want folks who are here to lose the value of the remaining two days.”

Despite the weather, Varian Medical Systems proceeded with its year-end review and webcast for investors on Tuesday morning. “We actually have a pretty good turnout of over 30 people, said Spencer Sias, vice president of Corporate Communications and Investor Relations, during the presentation. “We were thinking this place would be a ghost town and it isn’t, so it is delightful to see you all here.”