THE LOST TRUCK by Kevin Johnson

A while back, I asked everyone to tell me what they keep in their news vehicles.  We if I had to answer that question now, I'd have to say... SAND.  Here's my adventure with Hurricane Dennis;  hopefully we can all learn from this mistake.

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 4x4 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 4x4 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!


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