In case you’ve been living under a rock, not only did we have an eclipse this past week, but we’re also having a hurricane. At least Texas is.
The eclipse was over in a flash, but unfortunately, hurricane Harvey is the gift that just keeps on giving.
Houston, the home of Family Tree DNA, is getting hammered. The strength of the hurricane itself has dissipated, but the rains….
Oh, the rains!
Today is day two of an expected 4 or 5 day “event.” Harvey is centered on top of Houston and is stalled, not moving, and it’s dumping feet of rain on the city. Yes, I said feet, as in multiple.
It’s bad folks.
The streets are rivers. Expressways are impassible.
You can watch the CNN coverage here, or pretty much anyplace.
Genetic genealogists are wondering about how Family Tree DNA is doing.
First, let me say that I’m NOT speaking for Family Tree DNA. I’m only speaking as a project administrator who has visited the facility multiple times after the annual conferences.
I also spent years in the technology consulting world, so I fully understand disaster planning, but this disaster is turning out to be far worse, in terms of flooding, than anyone anticipated or has seen before in Houston.
The good news is that Houstonians, and Family Tree DNA in particular, are not novices. For those who don’t know, the building that houses Family Tree DNA was damaged by hurricane Ike in 2008, including the lab. They were fine then, and they’ll be fine this time too – which doesn’t mean they might not have some challenges.
Family Tree DNA, along with their lab including DNA samples is located on the 8th floor of an office building on the Loop Road, on the Northwest side of Houston.
Looking out from their windows, you can see the freeway BELOW grade. Let me translate this for you. The expressway will fill up before the roads around the expressway flood. And then it would take 8 more floors of water to touch FTDNA.
If it gets that bad, the only saving grace would be some guy named Noah.
And no, for those wondering about leakage, they are NOT located on the top floor of the building.
There is automatic generator power for the entire building. Family Tree DNA also has offsite backup out of harm’s way.
However, neither FTDNA, nor any company, can control the communications lines from their carrier – nor the weather for that matter.
Not only has part of the infrastructure in Southeast Texas been damaged by the actual hurricane itself, but the resulting floodwater will be affecting the carrier’s facilities in Harris County.
The biggest problem, right now, is the safety of the residents, including, of course, Family Tree DNA employees. Flooding is nearly universal and is expected to worsen. Some homes are badly flooded, with residents being evacuated by boat, but others are “only” seeing flooding in their yards. Those homes may yet see more extensive flooding in the coming days.
Needless to say, if your street is a river, you’re not driving to go anyplace.
The mayor of Houston has asked (ordered?) residents to stay off the roads. If their street isn’t underwater, people have been deciding to venture out and then they get themselves into trouble, because most streets are impassible. There’s just no place for the water to go.
So, if the FTDNA site is slow, it could well be due to the fact that their communications lines are affected.
If the site goes down for some reason, don’t panic. That too may be a result of communications lines and does NOT indicate a problem at FTDNA itself.
Hopefully, the site will simply continue like normal, and no one will even realize that they are located in the midst of a disaster area.
Given that the rains are predicted to continue for the next two days, it’s unlikely that FTDNA will be open for business on Monday, or Tuesday, and maybe somewhat longer, depending on the magnitude of the disaster. Even if they are open, with a skeleton crew, please, please do NOT call. Whatever problem we have can wait until they finish dealing with this catastrophe of whatever magnitude it turns out to be.
My prayers and positive thoughts go out to people of Houston and Southeast Texas and especially the fine folks at Family Tree DNA.
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