At 7:30 am, Irene made landfall near Cape Lookout, N.C., some fifteen miles north of the sandy Sheraton we called home. Moving low and slow, the Class 1 hurricane raked the Crystal Coast before taking lives and property as close as the Outer Banks and as far away as Vermont. Within that context, Atlantic Beach escaped unscathed, though that would be difficult to explain to the residents whose neighborhoods were temporarily flooded, whose income was interrupted, whose favorite fishing pier was crippled by the passing storm.
For the members of the press, how you spent Saturday morning depended on who was picking up your expense report. Those with network addresses on their check invariably fared better. Just ask the NBC crew spotted walking out of a backroom with bacon and eggs on their breath - long after Irene knocked out power to the hotel. I'm not saying Sheraton staffers fired up a generator and cooked the big-shots breakfast, but there's a local photog over there with a belly full of Cheez-Wiz and Pop-Tarts who wrote a little song about it. He's humming it now outside the Peacock's sat truck right. Try not to make eye contact.
Then again, maybe I imagined him. It all seems so fuzzy now. What I most remember about the morning Irene came ashore is driving around in it. Sheeka, Weaver and I scoured the island as best we could while eighty mile an hour winds made full grown stop signs wobble and thrum. From a leaning steeple to shattered glass, we collected the requisite evidence of a hurricane on the wane. Hell, we even pushed Sheeka out in the open for some street-level coverage. It was great fun, in a "hey, watch out for flying sheet-metal" kind of way. Later, we hit the beach where great curtains of flying sand granules wedged themselves in places that just shouldn't be explored on a family blog as this.
But you didn't stop in to hear of gritty under-loins. That kind of thing can be found all over the internet. No, what I hope you expected were tales of deprivation, pithy missives borne of hunger, snark and delirium, great passages of action in which a heroic news team rises above their station by plucking orphans from a kinetic surf. You know, I'd kinda like to read some of that myself, for true hurricane coverage is comprised of hours of boredom punctuated by seconds of totally heinous chafing. By far, the most perilous part of our mission was navigating five stories of pitch black stairwell under heavy load every time we went somewhere. I've never tasted so much flashlight!
But even that metallic taste doesn't capture the true flavor of extended hurricane coverage. For that, I'm forced to cue up a most disturbing vignette, a grainy trek into the very heart of darkness. That's right, I'm talkin' about the trail of destruction spawned by a news crew on assignment, a swath of debris that begins somewhere around the Do Not Disturb sign and extends well past the point of imagination...