From the Epicenter to the Eye

A text woke me up Thursday morning at 9:30 (it was my day to sleep in).

“You’re going to the Outer Banks tomorrow.” From my boss.

Less than 24 hours later, I was en route to Chocowinity, a small town in eastern North Carolina. CBS19’s sister station, WITN, needed a few extra hands to cover Hurricane Irene as the storm prepared to make landfall. Within one week, I covered a national headline-grabbing earthquake, and now I’m reporting on what’s supposed to be the strongest hurricane to hit the U.S. in a few years.

I left Charlottesville early Friday morning to embark on the four-hour drive to North Carolina. Upon arriving, I was almost immediately sent to interview the interim county manager for Beaufort County. And then I shot a quick story on the supermarket running out of milk, bread and eggs as people began stocking up on supplies.

I left my hotel room shortly before 6 a.m. Saturday, apparently just minutes before it lost power. Hurricane Irene was in full force. I was first sent to a car wreck that was 20 minutes away from the station. After an hour and a half of navigating rural roads I’ve never seen before, I still can’t find the scene. I hit many roadblocks (literally) in the form of downed trees and power lines, flooded roads or some sort of combination. By the time I get close, a firefighter tells me the scene was cleared, but I interviewed him on the condition of the roads. The rest of the day was spent covering the storm itself before spending 12 hours in a powerless, humid motel room.

The busiest day by far was Sunday. The town of Washington, just north of Chocowinity, was covered with water the day before. I covered the damage — a toppled gas canopy, a few missing roofs, countless trees and power lines in the roads — before searching for the Belle of Washington. For that remarkable story, check out the video below.

After three days of 12+ hour shifts, I took had one final sleep in my air condition-less motel and headed back to Charlottesville. It was an eye-opening weekend spent in Mother Nature’s wrath, and I managed to return home relatively dry and with experiences many reporters dream of. (And yes, I did shoot a standup where I am getting dowsed by Hurricane Irene’s heavy rains while trying to maintain balance with the winds. You have to check that one out here.)

From the epicenter of the earthquake to the eye of the hurricane. Maybe the Weather Channel has an opening… (Kidding.)


From NC to NYC: Virginia Quake Shakes the East

I was sitting in my car after an Old Navy shopping trip and a Smoothie King stop. Then, my car started shaking.

I looked around, and no one seemed to react. I wasn’t sure what I had just felt, so my natural reaction — I tweeted. “Did I just feel an earthquake!?” My phone then exploded with texts from my brother and friends asking if I was OK or alive.

I rushed home, saw the CNN coverage and tried calling work. Couldn’t get through.

I swapped my shorts for jeans, put on my newly purchased Old Navy flip-flops and ran out the door to work. Within 30 seconds of stepping into the newsroom, I was sent to Mineral, Va., the epicenter of the earthquake.

What amazed me most about covering the earthquake was how eerily normal everything appeared. Sure, there was damage from the earthquake — two homes were destroyed, many others heavily damaged — but you had to look hard for the damage. Still, it was very easy to empathize with those who lost a lot, like the Brunson family I interviewed (in the video below).

Mineral is a small town between Charlottesville and Richmond. There aren’t many tall buildings, if any at all. That might not provide much comfort to those with damaged homes, worrying if insurance will cover the cost of repairs, but should something have happened closer to a metropolis like Richmond, there might have been more than the zero fatalities or serious injuries Central Virginia saw.

As far as news goes, it was exciting to cover a major event in our own backyard that had a national impact. But even one week after the quake, the cleanup continues.