Hurricane Sandy brought much of the eastern seaboard to a standstill when it made landfall on Monday, causing the cancellation of some 10,000 flights and many meetings and conventions from Boston to Washington, D.C./Virginia and points south. The massive storm, which stretched across 800 miles and 11 states, was expected to have an impact on 50 to 60 million people, according to reports.

The Global Business Travel Association predicted about 514,000 trips would be canceled and $606 million in travel spending lost as a result of storm-related cancellations, causing the 11 states in the path of the storm to suffer an average business travel spending loss as high as $58 million per day.

Here’s a roundup of some of the meetings and conventions being canceled and postponed up and down the East Coast on Monday:

• Due to the weather and major power outages predicted, ASAE is canceling the ASAE 2012 In Honor of Women program scheduled for Wednesday, October 31st, says John Graham, president at CEO of ASAE. Attendees who registered for the event will receive a refund within the next 30 days. “Associations who are hosting meetings in the path of Sandy will need to make their own decision whether or not to cancel an event based on the weather conditions and the safety of the attendees,” says Graham. “Associations should also discuss with their insurance carrier before canceling the event. If an association decides to postpone an event, they need to communicate changes to staff, attendees, as well as post a message on their Web site, send messages through social media outlets and other communication channels, and alert the press.”

In Philadelphia, the International Congress of Esthetics and Spa’s Aesthetics Expo ended its conference a day early on October 29 because of the hurricane. The conference had 3,000 attendees and filled 620 hotel rooms. "Our number one priority is for the safety of all our guests and the people of the city and region. The Philadelphia Convention & Visitors Bureau, Pennsylvania Convention Center, and our hotels have been in constant contact with our customers regarding Hurricane Sandy,” said PCVB officials. “We continue to closely monitor the situation and prepare our staff and guests."

• In New York, all shows for the week at the Javits Center have been canceled or postponed due to a mandatory evacuation of the center. The International Security Conference and Expo-East and the Advanced Energy Conference, both slated for the Javits on October 30 and October 31, were postponed. The Jewelers Association New York show closed two days early on Sunday, October 28. Most of the hotels have extended discounted rates to accommodate exhibitors and attendees who were still in the city, says Michelle Orman, JA spokeswoman.

• At the Marriott Marquis, the MediaNext Show, planned for October 29–31, was postponed until January 8.

• The IAPP Practical Privacy Series scheduled for October 29–30 at the Sentry Centers in New York has been postponed.

• In Boston, the American Society for Radiation Oncology suspended its meeting at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center at 1 p.m. Monday, October 29, but intended to reconvene as planned on October 30 with some schedule changes.

• The American Society for Clinical Pathology, booked at Boston’s Hynes Convention Center October 30–November 2, is still planning to meet as scheduled.

• The District of Columbia Baptist Convention Annual Meeting,  set for October 29–30 in Washington, D.C. has been postponed. 

Hilton properties in the affected areas are waiving cancelling fees through October 30 for advance purchase reservations for those hotels located in evacuation zones and affected areas. Early departure charges will also be waived at all applicable hotels. Hilton will continue to monitor and evaluate its storm-related policies accordingly. "Hilton Worldwide's NYC hotels are all faring well, as we planned ahead and have enough food and supplies," says Hilton Worldwide officials in a statement. "The Conrad has been evacuated due to the flood zone and West 57th Street by Hilton Club has been evacuated due to the crane collapse nearby on 57th Street. Guests have been relocated to the Hilton New York." 

The Legal Side of Storm-Related Cancellations

With so many canceled flights, the storm is likely to have an impact on meetings nowhere near the hurricane’s path. Attendees from East Coast cities may not be able to get to meetings across the country. In cases where a significant number of attendees can’t make it due to the storm, it’s important that a force majeure clause allows for partial performance being covered, says attorney James Goldberg, principal, Goldberg and Associates, Washington, D.C. Often, it’s written as an all-or-nothing proposition, meaning that a contract must terminate or go forward, he says.

Also, the force majeure clause probably won’t cover a group that cancels a meeting next week over concerns that power will still be out.“It’s best not to make unilateral decisions,” says Goldberg. “Discuss it with the hotel and reach agreement on how to proceed.”  

Adds attorney Steven Adelman, Adelman Law Group, Scottsdale, Ariz., "In any force majeure event, it is most important to concentrate first on saving lives, then on protecting property, and last on who has a legal claim against whom. Behaving ethically and generously in a crisis tends to make people disinclined to sue.

“Your contracts define only your basic legal rights and obligations,” says Adelman, who deals with risk management and litigation involving public accommodations. “The details of how you perform those duties, and the consequences of your actions, are up to you."