Into the Storm

Dean is ugly. Big. Already a killer. And just getting started.

Every hurricane expert and public safety professional, without exception, preaches preparedness, and if so ordered, evacuation. You will never hear any one of them suggest heading to an island or sliver of coast where a Category 5 is projected to hit head-on.

In the newsroom, the rules are a bit different.

As I write, seven of my colleagues are planted in front of Hurricane Dean, one crew in Jamaica, two in Cancun. I spoke with one of them on the phone this morning. They are focused on reporting the story. They have staked out (what they think will be) a safe place to hole up for the worst of it. But there is no denying the uncertainties. We have been humbled by the effects and deadly results of uncertainties over and over again in the last few hurricane seasons.

Two years ago, weeks before Katrina & Wilma defined the treacherous 2005 storm season, I was dispatched to Key West where Hurricane Dennis was projected to hit as a Category 4. Mandatory evacuation of the Lower Keys was already underway. My sense of dread was already underway… and growing. I focused on gathering stories, filing, “going live” as much as possible, as long as our connection held. Our crew signed waivers so our hotel’s managers would let us keep our rooms absolved of liability for what might happen to us. City leaders warned us that first responders would be unavailable if we were hurt or desperate. Viewers emailed, wondering why we tell people how to be safe, then ignore our own advice.

Dennis weakened, then took a last minute shift in direction.
Dean may not be so accommodating.

Full disclosure: there are times I eagerly volunteer to be the first to go.
Sense of duty? Lure of adventure? Ego? Yes, all of those.

I explain to those who love me that a reporter’s unwritten job description includes the possibility (probability) of sometimes working in dangerous places and risky situations.

Mom is tough to convince.

And sometimes, so am I.

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