Tag Archives: extreme weather

Eclipse 2017

August 21st 2017. The first total eclipse in a century moves from West to East over the USA. 2min34 seconds of darkness at 2:34pm EST. We drove towards Greenville, SC for this event. Leaving at 6:30 am from Atlanta for fear of traffic. It was my second total eclipse. My first experience was obstructed by the northern French clouds ~15 years ago, so expectations were high.

Unfortunately, a cloud blocked the sun for about 10 minutes, including the 2’34″ of totality. Another missed chance!

Moral in our road trip gang did not improve during the 6 hour commute back to Atlanta. 3x longer than the drive up to South Carolina.

It was fun, and exciting. The darkness, cold wind, and confused animals; are worth it. But next time seeing the corona during totality is preferable. Let’s make sure to go somewhere with a 0% chance of clouds.

The US gets another opportunity in 2024, who knows where I’ll be then…


July 2017 Road Trip

One of my project trips got postponed, which unexpectedly opened up my agenda. What does one do with an open agenda? Once checks out something to do, and texts some friends to go on a road-trip. Goal: Attending the July 2nd Space-X rocket launch at Cape Canaveral, about 8 hours of driving away.

I decided to leave for the road trip and was on the road no more than 2 hours later. We decided to do a quick visit to Savannah, booked a hotel between Savannah, GA and Jacksonville, FL while on the road and it was quite nice (and hot). Savannah has a lot of (slave) history and being one of the largest ports on the east coast, there is quite some activity there. No high-rises, lots of parks and feels old and nice.

Day two, on our way to Cape Canaveral (Rocket Launch window opened around 6:30 pm) we made a detour into St Augustine, which is supposedly the oldest Spanish town in the USA. Including a fort with a daily cannon shooting exhibition around 2:30pm. It was so hot, reminded me why Americans don’t typically visit Florida in summer time. Quite nice town, again, but I was filled with anticipation for the rocket launch later that day. Every hour I was more excited to finally see a rocket launch… the timing was great, weather was good, what could possibly go wrong?

By the time we arrived at Cape Canaveral, parking on a small island between the lakes, with a great view on launch pad 39A, we realized we did not think this through. We did not bring decent cameras (other than phone), no binocular, no chairs or anything to bring some shade while waiting in the Florida heat. The closer we got to the launch window, more cars arrived and there was quite a crowd (~40-50 cars) by 7:30pm. We started following the livestream and the countdown began… Everything going well, 15,… 12, 11, 10, 9,… 0? Nothing… the computer aborted at 10 seconds into the launch. After waiting another 15 minutes, with thunder storms coming in from the north-west, it was clear the launch would be scrapped and very disappointed we drove off towards Orlando where we planned to visit Sea World the next day.

Sea world is always nice. The killer Whales (Orka’s) are awesome creatures, so are the Penguins (the only place to get closer to Penguins must be in the wild). While we were at Sea World, Space-X announced that there was a new launch window this day, July 3rd, at the same time as yesterday. Since the launch was the primary reason to make the trip to Florida, we decided to drive back to Cape Canaveral. This would add another 2 hours to our trip, but so be it. July 4th is a holiday so no issues arriving home deep into the night. While driving to the launch site, we got into a pretty bad storm… unfortunately the storm seemed to be going the same direction as we were… When we arrived at the same place we were the day before, the storm looked pretty bad, and Space-X decided to move the launch about half an hour. People started to come in again, and an even larger crowd then the day before gathered. While we turned in disbelieve to sky, thinking “oh don’t let this stop the launch!”, our weather apps predicted the storm would simply evaporate. Not move in any direction, but evaporate. Ground control moved the launch to the very last minutes of the launch window. Then something amazing happened… the sky started to clear up. Where a storm was just 10 minutes ago, now there were beautiful clear blue skies! We started getting excited again… this was finally going to happen!… The webcast started, countdown started, 1 minute, 45 seconds, 15 seconds, 10, 9,…. NOTHING. ****** NOTHING again!!! The computer aborted again at 9 seconds into the countdown. The launch being at the very end of the launch window was automatically scrapped. We jumped into the car and started driving back to Atlanta.

It was a long drive back, arriving home around 4:30 am. Nice road trip, but we missed the spectacle. The only consolation being that by the time we hit the Georgia state boarder, Space-X had already scrapped the launch on July 4th to further investigate. We ended up watching a successful launch and 1st stage recovery on TV July 5th.

Next potential road trips:
- August 11th: Space-X launch from Cape Canaveral Launch pad 39A
- August 21st: 100% Solar Eclipse just 2 hours north of Atlanta (Atlanta should be 90%)
- November TBD: First Falcon Heavy launch from Cape Canaveral Launch pad 39A with attempted recovery of 3 first stage boosters. (Low chance of successful launch, but a spectacle no matter what!*)

*If it launches

The story of a Belgian in America: Company Blog Post

We’ve published 4 blog posts about my expat experience the past weeks. Please follow the following links to read the 4 posts.

I’ve had generally very good feedback on these, and many LinkedIn requests. However, I’ve also had some remarks that I’m not very positive about the USA in my writing. I’m sorry to say, but the people who understood that from the blog post, completely missed the point. The blog was not meant as a glorification of America. It is about the experience, the transformation, of a person moving abroad and integrating/assimilating into the “foreign” society. It is not meant to be about America, it is meant to be about the expat, the person. Things you experience, things that are different, roadblocks, etc. Immigrants are a different breed. It is something people that never lived abroad for an extended period of time will never understand. I’m not asking for understanding or (dis)approval. My intention is to give people who are willing to take the jump, an idea what to expect. Do not give up while waiting for your visa, do not stop your life while waiting. Pay attention on remuneration, comparing is difficult, it is OK to miss things, but don’t get homesick. Understand you will change as a person in every way possible and understand the people around you will most likely not understand. Just like Steve Jobs was nervous every time he had to go on stage to show the latest Apple product, so does the expat feel nervous every time he/she ends up in a new situation. And just like Jobs, the expat will come out of the situation stronger and a step closer to perfection. But, and this is a big but, it is not for everyone. You need to be the type of person who wants to be nervous about things, who wants to be put out of your comfort zone. THAT is the point of this 4-series blog post.


1) How it all started
2) The paperwork struggle
3) Discover the people, discover yourself
4) Atlanta is Home



When snow hits the Atlanta region, things get ugly. Georgians are petrified by the idea of snow, especially those that experienced the 2014 snow apocalypse. It was comically compared with the Walking dead season 1, which was located in Atlanta as well. Click here to see…
Office close at 11 AM, Schools close sooner or do not open at all, libraries close the doors, bars shut down at 11 PM and everyone hits the highway at the same time making Georgia-400 become an even larger parking lot than it already is on a normal snow-free day. So while the east coast is actually hit pretty bad with snow, Atlanta acts as if it is in crisis due to the weather. It still strikes me as hilarious.

My company is going to post a 4-part blog on the company website about my experiences moving to the USA. I will post the full article here as well once it is published (over the course of the next months).

Enjoy the weekend, and keep warm. :-)

Winter is here!!!

Freezing temperatures for 5 days, with lows of 10 degrees F (-12 C). Brick hard ice that looks like snow, frozen trees and plants that sometimes collapse under their own weight, 300,000 people that loose power up to several days, schools closed for days, roads extremely dangerous and the airport closed.

Yes, winter has arrived in Texas. Temperatures dropped from a nice 70 F (21 C) to 30 F (-1 C) within 10 hours and the city has completely shut down. As an outsider, I thought I know better and people overreacted. And in fact, the last 3 ‘ice days’ I have experienced here in Texas the past year really was funny to see how everyone stressed out for, well…., nothing. So, I kind of expected the same thing this time; and boy was I wrong!

It is impossible to understand what a frozen tree looks like, if you have never seen one before. It’s like walking in a fairy-tale world (a really cold one!). I worked from home on Friday and then in the evening went to the bar across the street. One of my Belgian friends living here in Dallas, lost power due to the cold and joined us at bar where we took the seats next to the fireplace. There were 5 other people (including the waitress) in the bar. I decided to stay warm inside for the rest of the weekend and signed up for Netflix, watched 3 seasons of the Walking Dead and forgot all about the cold mess outside.

It is a very weird feeling, nothing you expect moving to Texas. Alaska, yes, you would expect crazy weather, but Texas? It is a humbling feeling to see the power of mother earth and the speed things can change.

Stay safe, stay warm and may the heat come soon!


Tornado Watch

There are may things you think about when moving to the other side of the world; but what you tend to forget, or better: ignore, is the bad sides of the weather. You cannot comprehend things you have not experienced so you tend to minimize or blow them totally out of proportion.
For me, living in north/central Texas, one of these things are tornado’s. I did not really think about it, since last year I did not have any tornado warning or even a watch; or not that I was aware of anyway. I did see the effects of a baseball-size hail storm, but you tend to simply ignore it. What you remember is the sunny weekends at the pool, the warm water of the Gulf and the occasional refreshing rain.
Last week however, we had the tornado siren going off in my county and this is the story of that evening.

The story begins early evening. I was going out for dinner with another Belgian couple that is visiting Dallas. (FYI you can find their blog in the new ‘other blogs‘ section of this page). I invited them for dinner at a BBQ place just south of of Dallas, they serve huge cow ribs on Wednesday which is kind of a cool tings to see for a Belgian. They were picking me up at my apartment. By the time they were here, the weather seemed a bit weird and I suggested we should go for the great Mexican place just a block away. We have seen what bad weather does with the roads around here, so it just seemed like a good move.

We went to ‘Janviers’ restaurant, had a good meal, good time. Suddenly an insane storm started outside. The rain poored down and cars were parking on the streets due to lack of sight. Lighting every 1.something seconds and thunder. People in the restaurant started looking outside and it was very silent for a couple of seconds. If the locals are silent because of the weather, you know something is wrong.
Because of the bad weather, we decided to have a desert too. Probably the best desert I had in Dallas; pancakes with ice cream and some kind of caramel syrup. Very nice.

Anyhow, once the rain was getting less bad (it still rained), we decided to go back to my place. There was no traffic whatsoever, and when I got out of the car I heard a siren going… While I watched my friends drive out of the gate, I couldn’t really tell what kind of siren this was… was it a firetruck called to help after a flooding due to the rain or going to a fire caused by lightning? No, this was a different type of siren… An ambulance, maybe? No, those are different… what could this be… And then it hit me. It’s a TORNADO SIREN!!! Oh FUCK! I was totally panicked, ran into my apartment (second floor) and tried to find something on the TV. And yes, there it confirmed what I thought: there is a tornado watch in my county. I send a text to my friends they really shouldn’t be driving, but should get inside immediately and turn on the weather channel. The tv said some people died south of Dallas (80 miles south) in a tornado earlier that day and I am supposed to take cover on the first floor. Oh, crap. Issue; I have an apartment on the second floor and really do not know anyone on the first floor yet. I have no clue what to expect, so I decide to go down and look for an apartment with lights on at the first floor and just knock at their door.

So I go down, it is weirdly quiet outside, almost no wind, little rain, nothing like just an hour ago, but the siren is still going whoooooooooooooooh whoooooooooooooooh whoooooooooooooooh. I knock on the first door with lights, but nobody answers. This is now starting to scare me a bit, why would nobody answer the door when they are cleary home? I knock again, a bit harder. Still nothing. Now I am really scared. I knock again. And some guy opens the door, hiding behind the door. He is totally naked, which only seems weird to me now, but back then I was just panicked. I tell this guy that the siren is going off, I just moved here and never had anything like this; what does this mean and what am I supposed to do? Guy tells me, “I should not worry’, the thing is down south (where we originally planned to eat out) and should just go back to my apartment and stay in doors away from windows. The fact I live on the second floor is ‘not a big deal, nothing is going to happen’. He tells me ‘I wouldn’t be taking a shower if I was worried’ (which explains him not answering the door and being nacked when opening it). I’m still a bit panicked, and walk/run back to my apartment. While I run 10 foot between the buildings, I see people walking their dogs. … people are walking their dogs during a TORNADO siren??? Are they brave, naive or just plain nuts? The siren went on for another 20 min, then stopped. The weather channel now said the chance for a tornado was near zero, but a huge storm with potential base-ball size hail was going over my region. It indeed did. The hail was not that bad, but I saw the street turn into a small river, lighting thunder, nothing like Belgium has ever seen. I’m starting to get used to thunder storms here, we have them all the time, but this one was slightly different and more scary. Nothing happened, and by 12.30 AM everything was fine again and I went to bed and slept. No tornado actually emerged.

Back at work the next day, my colleagues were mocking me for being scared and made fun of the other Belgians for the same reason. Most of them grew up here in Dallas, or up north in Oklahoma where tornado’s are even more common. That same day an F-5 tornado hit the city of Moore in Oklahoma, destroying everything in its path. Suddenly, I seemed like everyone took tornado’s serious again. It seemed to be a wake-up call for everyone. Not just the colleagues, but everyone around here. Many people living here in the Dallas region have friends and family living up north in Oklahoma. Many of them knew people who’s houses were destroyed, or lived very close to the destruction path (like 1-2 miles) and everyone suddenly seemed to have a story about family, friends or themselves experiencing a tornado, hurricane or other potential deadly weather events.

We’ve had another tornado watch this week again. Expecting very bad weather and everyone seemed to take it very seriously. It ended up to be a lot of rain and some local thunder and lightning. A little hail too. But no tornado’s have been spotted. It is weird, it is scary. It is something you wonder why people choose to live in a region where things like this emerge. But once you sit by the pool after work, or in the weekend, and it feels like being on holiday, you wonder why people don’t all want to live here. I guess in the end it is give and take. There is also no point in focusing on tornado’s. More people die in car accidents or gun shootings around here than people dying from weather events. And floods probably kill more people than tornado’s do too. Next to that there are the snakes, Nile-virus mosquito’s and the poisonous spiders. It is better just not to think about it and enjoy the good parts of the weather, which is exactly what I will do.