Tag Archives: weather

Live Truck Falls Through Ice

Truck in LakeSometimes while covering the news, we become the news.

A WDJT-TV (CBS 58, Milwaukee, WI) live truck fell through the ice while working on a story about ice safety on Sunday.

Although no official word has been released from the driver, it looks as if she thought she was driving on a snow-covered road. The truck made it 150 yards onto the lake, but the ice was no match for the weight of the live truck. Sinking 4 to 5 feet to the bottom of the lake channel, the truck still sits there today.

Thankfully, everyone inside the vehicle escaped without injury.

Front of Truck in LakeIn the TV news business, we are constantly required to cover weather events in which we tell viewers to stay inside or “don’t go out if you don’t have to.” Many years ago, my brand-new blazer was swallowed by the mighty Atlantic Ocean while covering a hurricane, so I realize how easily something like this can happen.

I won’t feed the argument of an insensitive and demanding desk, pushing a crew into dangerous situations. Everyone needs to take responsibility for covering the news well and covering the news safely. It is easy to feel overwhelmed by the pressure of a looming deadline. We all need to be alert and we all have to be careful.

That being said, when do the “freeze frame” jokes start?

Today’s TMJ4 and MyFox Milwaukee have more of the story, complete with video.

My Flight Through Floyd

From: Richard W. Adkins, WRAL-TV, Raleigh, NC

Photo: Richard W. Adkins
Photo: Richard W. Adkins

I love what I do. I love it on many levels. And one of the reasons I love it is because things are never the way you think they will be.

I headed in for work on Wednesday thinking I was bound for the barrier islands.

Floyd was predicted to hit North Carolina in 24 hours and I knew I would be at ground zero. Surprising, I found myself heading west instead of east.

We had exiled the helicopter to Johnson City, Tennessee before the storm. The plan was simple. I was to drive to Columbia, South Carolina. The helicopter was to leave Tennessee at first light Thursday and pick me up in South Carolina. We were to circle south around the back of the storm and come in behind the Killer Hurricane.

Yes, the plan worked wonderfully, but not without a hitch. As first light broke Thursday morning the helicopter took off and headed across the mountains. At the same time my next door neighbor crossed our yards. He said he heard the noise at 4:30am. At first light he went to investigate.

My neighbor Ned looked over the damage, took a quick inventory and made the call. He was kind enough to call the newsroom. He told the assignment editor that six big trees had crashed onto my house.

Two Hundred miles away my pager went off. I was in the lobby of Eagle Air in Columbia, South Carolina. I listened to the message, took a moment to let it sink in and put the thought aside. The helicopter was here. It was time to fly.

I saw that day houses flooded to the roof. I saw pigs swimming, horses heading for high ground and people being rescued by boat where once a cheap automobile would have tread easily. I saw water rise beyond belief and hope fall below expectations. In all that I saw that no matter what I would find at home nothing could be as bad as what I had seen in eastern North Carolina.

Photo: Richard W. Adkins
Photo: Richard W. Adkins

The chopper finally hit the roof of the TV station at 5:45pm. I disembarked and made slot for the 6pm news. The drive home was long. The sun sets here at about 7:15pm. The shadows are long and make the world seem slow. I walked around back of my home and found 6 large trees resting comfortably in various places on my home. The roof is open to the sky. The Deck is filled with oak. My daughter’s room is a water park. My life is now leafy.

But I take comfort in the fact that I know I’m much luckier than many post-Floyd families. I’ll take a day or two off work. I’ll use this experience the next time I stick my camera in the face of a victim and ask, “How does it feel?”

Jack Packs

From: Richard W. Adkins

Meet Jack.
Jack makes packs of snacks.
Jack’s packs of snacks are called Jack-Packs.

This tongue twisting Suess-like tale is not a children’s story of simple sentence, rather it’s a novel of survival through North Carolina’s violent hurricane history.

Jack Edwards, 20+ years of a camera on his shoulder, now sits in his office as Operations Manager for WRAL-TV in Raleigh, North Carolina. “I started shooting news full time in ’65” says Edwards with a thick eastern Carolina accent, “I imagine I was on the coast for 8 to 10 hurricanes.” No longer shooting, Edwards still remembers those early days of storm coverage, and trying to find food in deserted coastal towns, “When I was covering hurricanes, I knew businesses would be closed. So I always packed my self a Jack-Pack.”

A Jack-Pack. No one is really sure who applied the nameplate to the product but it has stuck for many years. The poetic name refers to a survival pack of food and gear Edwards would pack for himself before heading toward the coast to cover the storms.

Edwards put the camera down for the final time in 1988. Safe inside his office, his new assignment had him helping dispatch younger crews to the coast when storms were moving in. “When hurricane season came along and we sent everyone out, we started getting phone calls (from the crews) that everything was closed. They were having a hard time getting food, that brought the idea of why not (make Jack-Packs) for everybody.”

Edwards convinced the News Director to sign on to the project, he went out in search of waterproof containers to hold the precious booty and began to ask the news crews what they wanted to take along. He quickly learned his taste, and nutrition goals, varied drastically from many of the crews.

“I was packing sardines and Vienna sausages, nabs and beans and franks.” says Edwards comfortable in his own culinary customs. But years of research have skewed the pack to a far different taste. “With talking to everybody who uses them and the nutritionist here, I’m packing more high energy and nutritious foods.” Despite a better menu, Edwards admits the Jack-Pack remains less than formal dining. “Now I’m packing tuna, canned chicken and Beanie Weenies, trail bars and granola bars.”

Once the Jack-Pack became a standard hurricane issue, Edwards began to broaden his focus to more than just feeding hungry news crews. He wanted to keep them safe as well. He says young photographers who are on the coast for the first time need all the help they can get. “They don’t know that the sand can swallow you before you get the camera out of the car.” That was never more evident than hurricane season three years ago. “Sure enough, the first hurricane we had, one guy got stuck on the beach and had to use his hands to dig the car out. He cut his hands doing it so I said OK, I’ll make an emergency kit as well.” A compact shovel is now part of the pack.

When asked what item gets used the most, Edwards sort of grins and laughs “Fix-a-Flat…” he says and seems to see visions of soaked photographers cursing flat tires in the rain. “…It’s used so often now I pack two of them when I can.”

No one knows the value of a Jack-Pack with Fix-a-Flat better than Terry Cantrell. The veteran photographer of more than a dozen hurricanes found his car tires punctured by debris on the road during Hurricane Dennis. Stranded on Hatteras Island with no service station open, Cantrell had few options. “The little donut spare was useless in that kind of weather.” said Cantrell “If it wasn’t for the Fix-a-Flat I’d have abandoned that car right there.”

Edwards likes to hear stories like that. He knows he’s appreciated when his Jack-Packs makes life easier for the crews in the field. When he was on the street, Edwards liked Hard News. He calls hurricanes Hard-ass news. He knows how tough it is mentally, physically and professionally when you’re in the middle of a potentially deadly storm. He also feels his Jack-Packs make a difference in coverage. “If you have food, it’s one thing you don’t have to worry about.” he says.

One less worry in the middle of a storm, that’s something every photographer can appreciate. And a well-packed Jack-Pack can even bring a smile to their faces. “This past storm I had one comment over and over…” says Edwards with big grin; “The one thing they really enjoy is Cheese Whiz!”

Jack stacks away empty Jack-Packs.

Next hurricane season, Jack will bring them back.

What’s in a Jack-Pack? Here’s a list!

  • 9pk Assorted Chips
  • 4 cans Beanie Weenies
  • 1 box Boxed Drinks
  • 2pks Bubble Gum
  • 1 Can Opener
  • 4pks canned Chicken
  • 2pks canned Fruit
  • 4pks canned Tuna
  • 1 can Cheese-Whiz
  • 1pk Hot Beverage Packs
  • 1 box Saltines
  • 2 boxes Granola Bars
  • 2pks Knives, Forks, Spoons
  • 12 pks Nabs
  • 1 jar Peanut Butter
  • 8pks peanuts
  • 2pks Pop-Tarts
  • 2pks Raisins
  • 10pks Mayonnaise
  • 2pks Trail Mix

Jack Emergency Kit

  • Compact Shovel
  • Hatchet
  • Fix-a-Flat
  • WD-40
  • Insect Repellent
  • 1 roll Garbage Bags
  • 1 Box Waterproof Matches
  • 1″ Dust Brush
  • First Aid Kit
  • 4 Cleaning Rags
  • Flashlight
  • Duct Tape

Richard W. Adkins is a TV Photographer at WRAL-TV in Raleigh, North Carolina. Recent accomplishments include the DuPont award, Peabody Award and an Emmy award for excellence in News Camera Work.

THE LOST TRUCK (Hurricane Dennis)

It all started innocently enough.  Reporter Dale Gauding and I were on Outer Banks patrol in North Carolina, covering the storm.  I normally like covering the storms down there.  It’s like a road trip, and the surroundings are so much different.  The only problem develops in the fact that I’ve never really enjoyed the Outer Banks in nice weather.  It’s always stormy.

We were up before dawn doing morning live shots.  I was proud of my water proofing job on my camera (I’ll have to put some of the idea in the Tips and Tricks section).  All my gear was working perfectly in the 40 mph winds.

When the morning show was wrapped, we were instructed to head south to Hatteras Island.  For those that don’t know the area, Hatteras sticks out very far east into the Atlantic, and as a result often gets hit much worse than the rest of the area.  Because of this fact, officials had placed a mandatory evacuation on the island.  We eventually found out why.

Cruising around Rodanthe, a small town North of Cape Hatteras, we decided to check out the pier.  Waves crashing don’t come off as impressive on tape unless they are put in context.  Pier crashing waves always look good.  At least that’s what I used to think. While Dale pulled the truck up into the parking lot, I shot waves though the front windshield.  The winds had picked up to around 60-70mph, and sand was being blown around like a sand blaster.

truckstuck.jpg (6646 bytes)I got a nice shot of a large wave coming up under the pier, over a dune and into the parking lot. I didn’t realize at the time, that this wave had washed sand around the wheels of our truck locking us into the parking lot.

Our little 2 wheel drive truck just spun its wheels. A 4×4 may have driven out of the mess, but we weren’t so lucky.

truckwave.jpg (10277 bytes)We had purposely gone to the pier around high tide to get the most dramatic effect. As we tried every thing possible to dig the truck out, the waves kept coming in filling in any holes we dug.

Everyone we called for help refused to come out until high tide receded. That meant watching the truck get pounded by waves for 2 hours.

truckwide.jpg (7214 bytes)Help in the form of a big 4×4 pickup arrived a few hours after we first got stuck. By that time the sand was up to the doors, and the alarm had wound itself down. It was so depressing to hear those last cries for help from the siren.

Mack Midgett attempted to pull the truck from the sand 3 times before he went for reinforcements.

trucklight.jpg (7811 bytes)The truck was so buried in sand that it didn’t budge. He snapped 3 tow ropes, and decided to get a few friends and some shovels.

To add insult to injury, while backing up to tie on the second time around, Mack went too far and bashed his hitch into the tailgate of my truck, shattering the rear window.

trucklight.jpg (7811 bytes)So now my poor truck is sitting in hurricane force winds blowing sand up and almost over the roof with no rear window. I was sure my truck was totaled.

There was no way to get the truck out until the winds died down, so I grabbed all my gear out of the truck and waited for a fellow photog to come help us get home.

Photographer Rafael Dawson just barely got to us, and we had an even harder time getting out. The truck got stuck in the parking lot, also, but we were determined to not stay there any longer. We drove out a flooded route with 2 feet of water, random floating timbers and almost a dozen stranded cars. As my reporter noted, it looked like the road into Iraq after Desert Storm. I definitely felt like I had been to war.

The roads into Hatteras just opened up, a week after we got stuck. Mack Midgett had pulled my truck from the sand, but we didn’t get it back in town until today. The future of the truck is still up in the air, we’ll say it’s in critical condition, but we’re not ready to pull the plug on the ventilator just yet. I’ll keep you updated on it’s condition.

Until then, stay dry, and stay out of the sand!