The absolute worst lightning storm I have ever seen. We had scheduled ourselves to attend yet another show at Harrah’s Rincon Casino in Valley Center, CA, a pretty decent outdoor event facility. This lightning, thunder and heavy rain storm moved in so dramatically that they cancelled the appearance by the Tedeschi Trucks Band. I was really looking forward to a good show to end my weekend. Now I may never see these great artists ever perform. Yes, BB King was to follow and provide what I was hoping for another “best” concert. I have been since told that not only was the concert cancelled, all of the equipment was moved off the stage and back into the vans. They not only didn’t have any electrical power but were afraid of losing their tour equipment since BB King was to go to Rio De Janeiro for a South American tour immediately following this show. Bummer!
Today was the first time I had ever seen what happens when lightning strikes a tree. This palm tree in the middle of several palm trees was torched and the ground, in about a 20 foot circle, around the base . . . scorched! I also heard following our experience that another tree was broken in half and the ends were smoking. Absolutely the most bizarre weather pummeled the casino shutting off everything except the emergency lighting. Completely shut down the bean counters upstairs because there was no money flowing . . . so no beans to count!!! Anyone that was playing an electronic gaming machine was just sitting there guarding their machine to hopefully regain their control over their money. I mean everything had stopped at least for the 45 minutes or so we waited while I was trying to reclaim my credit card open behind the bar. You see, their point-of-sale (POS) system had collapsed as did the computer network within the casino due to the power outage. The manager finally came by and promised me they we charge my account only for the drinks, not the tip and gave me my card back so we could leave and hopefully resurrect some type of satisfactory evening; for this evening was to begin with a 5-star dinner, cocktails, Susan Tedeschi, Dereck Trucks and BB King.
This day began with many a Sunday choir, like getting my car washed and waxed . . . yeah, you know where this is going. Then I was to pick up my brother flying in to the local airstrip in his new plane (vintage, but new to him) and both of us only slightly fearing the weather. 500 yards before we get to my house the sky opens up like the day Noah set out. Well, may car got washed twice that day. Once inside the house the heavy rains continued and the sounds of thunder kept us edgy up until the moment we got ready to head out, the lights quit. Luckily the garage door was already open (electric opener).
Seeing the lightning storm on the way to the casino was awesome. The best and scariest show I have ever seen. That’s when we say that burned palm tree on the way to the casino. Just after dropping off my wife at the casino door I witnessed a bolt of lightning strike so close to this guy crossing the parking area that he flinched and then ran to his car dragging his girlfriend in a panic. I don’t know if it was the heat, flash or the shock wave percussion from the electromagnetic force (EMF) that caused his flinch. Pretty cool though! Scary!!!
So we get inside the casino and the thunder was so loud and frequent that it was very audible from inside on the gambling floor even above all of the machines (i.e. . . “Wheel of Fortune”. . .), I give the bartender my credit card and tell her to keep it open and began to order drinks. Soon after placing our name on the waiting list for dinner, the lights go out in the casino for the first time. Everyone on the floor does the old, “Oh” with various other noises and laughing. About 20 seconds go by and then the lights come back on. All of the electronic game are re-booting and soon everyone is back to doing what they were. Since it was getting close to the dinner hour the bar area was getting very busy. Mor of our party shows up and we continue to order more drinks on my card. About another 30 minutes goes by and I notice snow falling in the casino. It wasn’t snow but the ventilation system dust accumulation that gets sucked into the vents was falling from the ceiling area obviously from the now not running ventilation system. I also notice the restaurant lights are also not on. Moments later, the remainder of the electrical went out again except for emergency lighting. Now I begin to see more hotel staff on the floor than bumblebees on the bank of ice-plant near my pool. Each of the staff was answering questions and giving faith to the gamblers that have lost their money (or currently have lost their money) in the machines.
About another half hour goes by and the bar area is extremely busy now since there are no tables, machines or restaurants serving patrons in the casino. Our bartender is frantically serving whatever drinks she could and all available water bottles are being brought out onto the floor and passed out to patrons. I think it was a relief to our bartender when everything finally quit because she was forced to shut down finally because of her inability to not only pour from the electrically controlled dispenser, but now she was unable to control orders or sales because all of the computers were finally down . . . and not coming back anytime soon. She finally had to quit serving and only a couple of the bars remained open and a couple of the restaurants. All of the tables were covered and the machines were black. We were getting hungry and needed to leave, so I finally got my card back and we made our way to the door, talking to folks that got stuck in elevators and others that couldn’t wash their hands from the electronically controlled (sensored on/off controlled) sinks in the bathrooms. It was looking to be a miserable evening. We headed out hopefully to find electricity on in another area of another city.
Well, based on the reaction of the casino staff of the situation; as it became more apparent that it was getting more grim by the moment, quite reminiscent of a natural disaster or perhaps other significant public catastrophe; people were confused, situations were becoming desperate and patrons were confused and uninformed. The casino staff were told to get out on the floor, keep everyone calm and hand out water. I thin we came home with about 20 bottles of water. I think they did a great job controlling the situation and continuing to remain “hospitable”. Don’t forget about all of the other elements of the casino including the 12 story, 662 room hotel facility that also need to remain in control. Talk about testing the emergency procedures. This is where having carefully orchestrated contingency plans is such an important part of businesses of this nature.
I’m going to give our bartender/server a new accounting department made up of old school equipment so it won’t slow her down. I can’t blame her; she worked her ass off and without a ventilation system. I’ll give her a fresh pair of bloomers to boot.
Part two is about the 5-star dinner.