Wanna make those camera crews contract? Just add water. That's what happened at Atlantic Beach on Friday, as the outermost rain bands of Hurricane Irene began lashing at the shore. What had been a loose knit confederation of lights and lenses strewn across the Sheraton parking lot was now a clot of photogs and reporters huddling under the roof of the pier-side bar. Sure, it got a little crowded, but rubbing rain-suits with the competition beats still beats setting up a karaoke booth inside a car wash. That's kind of what it feels like to shoot video on the edges of an approaching hurricane. Though to be fair, I've never set up a karaoke booth, in or outside of a car wash.
What I have done is point a TV camera at everything under the cloud cover and for my lack of money, few things are as satisfactory to target as a fishing pier under duress. Yes, what had been our stage just hours earlier was now safe to use only as a backdrop. And what a backdrop! Every time one of those ten feet seas crashed into it, the old pier groaned, swayed and threatened to collapse into the surf. This of course made for a fabulous measuring stick and Sheeka and I spent the better part of both newscasts expecting it to crumble and fall. But even if that waterlogged wooden walkway exploded into a million splintery pieces, not all the camera crews present would have caught it.
Not with all those angry birds flying about. Throw in some words with friends and you got a couple of reasons why grizzled journalists in head-to-toe rain gear were stealing glances away from nature's fury to check their Twitter feed. That includes me! In fact, the biggest difference to modern day storm coverage is by far the wonderful handheld devices everyone seems to be staring at. Whereas you used to feel kind of isolated waiting on a storm everyone else has run from, now it's just another chat-fest. As an insatiable communicator, I love it, but I can't help but wonder when we'll have the first hurricane death caused by electronic distraction. Oooh! That would make for a cool status update!
'Scuse me, won't you...