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?”

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