Maybe It's Just Me... - WVTM-TV Birmingham, AL

Maybe It's Just Me...

By Mike Royer

…….but do we really need television reporters or anchors or meteorologists standing in the wind and driving rain as a hurricane approaches landfall? I’m just guessing that you know that hurricanes produce high wind and heavy rain. As Hurricane Gustav approached Louisiana this week, I watched local and network folks dressed in full rain gear, covered in their station or network logos, all doing the same thing. They were all standing near some moving trees or driving rain, all bracing against the wind. One network guy, whose identity doesn’t really matter, seemed a little overzealous to me as he seemed to fight to keep his footing in the streets of New Orleans, as the trees behind him gently waved in what looked like a 15 to 20 mph wind.

I’ve done it myself. I distinctly remember standing on Myrtle Beach years ago in winds that were around 60 miles an hour. It wasn’t really hard to stand there, but the sand hurt like crazy. I hadn’t thought about it, but when the wind blows in off the ocean at 50 or 60 miles an hour, it picks up a lot of sand and it ends up hitting your face at 50 or mph. I think the guy that invented sandblasting was the first to notice that. I didn’t want to be standing in 60 mph winds in Myrtle Beach, but my boss thought it was a grand idea, most news directors do. I understand that, but now as I watch all these people in different places, in different conditions, it’s beginning to look comical, almost silly. My first son was about 6 months old when we chased Hurricane Fran up the East Coast from Savannah to Wrightsville Beach, and I remember thinking how mad I was going to be if I got killed reporting on some storm that wasn’t even going to affect Alabama.

We’ve been very lucky. There have been few injuries reported of reporters covering approaching hurricanes. But, those high winds don’t just blow sand around, they blow tree branches and lumber and roofing around too. One good shot to the head and some news department will have an immediate opening. That would be a shame and it seems to me a terrible waste.

When I’m in charge, we’re not going to send people to hurricanes. We’re going to report about evacuations and we’ll report on the damage afterward, but as the storm approaches we’ll take cover and assume our viewers have figured out by now what wind and heavy rain looks like. We won’t chase tornadoes either. It seems to me that chasing a tornado is not much different than chasing a wild bear. It’s all a great adventure until you really catch one. Just in case you’re wondering… I’ll never be in charge.

See you tonight at 4:30, 5:00, 6:00 and 10:00 p.m.

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