I was covering the Michael Jackson trial for KTTV/KCOP I got
to know a terrific reporter named Brian Andrews. He works
for WFOR TV Miami-Fort Lauderdale. In the days just prior
to the arrival of Hurricane Katrina, Brian was sent to New
Orleans to cover the story for the Florida station. Many of
you may have seen him being tossed around by the wind as he
ran across a sidewalk and ducked behind a garbage can in order
to show viewers the intensity of the storm. He also had some
great interviews. His work was all over CNN. Brian wanted
to share some of his feelings with us so he started a blog
for this website. We got two pieces from him and then all
hell broke loose in New Orleans. When the power went out we
lost touch. Interestingly, some people were able to get messages
through to their friends and family using text messaging.
Brian got one through to me saying he had lost communication
and would continue writing when things settled down. He did.
Here are the three pieces he sent from his coverage of Hurricane
BLOG: After the Storm!
By Brian Andrews
What a crazy few weeks it's been. From Atlanta for a murder
trial, to South Florida for the arrival of Katrina, to New
Orleans for the rest of the Katrina, to driving all night
from New Orleans to Houston for a flight home, and back to
Atlanta for the end of the murder trial. I'm sitting in my
hotel room in midtown Atlanta and my head is spinning. I promised
Hal I'd try to write something more about our Katrina experience
when I had some time to decompress, so here it goes.
If I rewind my wind to two monday's ago... I remember sleeping
on the floor of the 5th floor ballroom at the New Orleans
Sheraton with hundreds of other guests who couldn't get out
in advance of the storm. They evacuated all of us out of our
rooms and made us stay together in the ballroom. I remember
waking up, walking to a window, and seeing the lights of the
city still on. The wind and rain was coming in and we were
hearing on the radio that the worst would be upon us by daybreak.
By 5am, the power was out.. and the hotel was on generator.
The phones were still working. The elevators were not.
was sitting on the floor on a pay phone doing phoners for
my station and the other CBS O&O's. While other news crews
had picked up and moved to Baton Rouge or Biloxi, we decided
to stay in New Orleans to ride out the storm. Just hours earlier,
my photographer, Kevin Martsells, and I had been at the Superdome
watching the first of a crowd that would eventually exceed
20,000, head inside to take shelter from the storm. It was
just before daybreak and we made our way down to the lobby
to watch Katrina roll into town. My aircard was still working
and I tried to email my assignment desk some photos we took
before sun-up of the storm coming on on Canal Street. I managed
to get 4 photos in (they looked like big blobs of rain) and
then the connection died. Just before 8am ET, Kevin and I
decided we would go outside and see what we could shoot. Kevin
met up with a still photographer from the New York Times.
I was doing a phoner for our station in Miami and they didn't
want to wait, so Kevin and the NYT guy went out and started
shooting tape. It was bad, but not as bad as it would eventually
get. 10 minutes later, I wrapped up my phoner and met Kevin
and the NYT guy in the motor lobby.
were drenched and had just come back from going around the
corner from the hotel to shoot some video. They got a really
great shot of a little bird struggling in the wind... and
lots of storm debris flying down the streets of New Orleans.
As we headed back out of the front door of the hotel, the
Sheraton's motor lobby had become like a giant wind tunnel.
It was as if someone had turned on a firehose, blasting the
water from Canal Street, through the motor lobby, out onto
a back alley. Kevin, who had just been out there a few minutes
earlier, knew there was a small stairwell on the edge of the
building where he could shoot and be shielded from the wind.
I told Kevin when we got to the door that we needed to be
really careful, watch each other's back for flying debris,
and if it got really bad, to just can it and get back inside.
Kevin made it across the wind tunnel to the opposite side
of the motor lobby first. He started rolling tape. I made
it from the door, past a firetruck and had to struggle in
the wind and rain just to walk 10 feet. We all ran to the
stairwell to regroup. Next, we decided to go out into the
street to see what we could see. I had Kevin watching my back
as I forced my way out into the wind and rain. About half
way down the sidewalk, I realized I needed to take cover because
bits and pieces of roofing material and who knows what else
was whizzing by me. I saw a mailbox and ran for it. Using
the mailbox as cover, I looked around, did a quick standup
and ran back to the motor lobby. Now, I'm about 150 pounds.
As I got back toward the building, the wind pushed me back,
knocked my feet out from under me, and dropped me flat on
my face. I picked myself up and Kevin and I raced back into
the hotel because now it was really starting to get scary.
As soon as we got back into the hotel, I watched from the
pay phone bank as a gust of wind shattered the brick facade
of an adjacent building..crashing down on a sports car and
an SUV. Glass started breaking and flying down the street.
Stuff was flying everywhere. It was the wildest thing I've
ever seen. It looked like a raging blizzard without the snow.
The wind-driven rain was white in appearance... mixed in with
who knows what. Buildings were crumbling, metal siding was
flying, things were crashing to the ground, car alarms were
going off... and the storm itself had the roar of a jet engine...
and a freight train.
noon, things started to clear up. I called Bryan Norcross
in our weather office in Miami and he told me the worst had
passed us. We jumped in our rental car, parked next to a police
cruiser with its back window blown out, and started driving
to the only uplink I knew was left in town: WWL. We drove
over downed powerlines, storm debris, broken tree limbs, bricks,
metal, you name it. We turned off Canal, which was now slightly
flooded and headed down the edge of the French Quarter to
WWL. When we got to the back parking lot, we looked through
the window and saw the power was still on, the phones were
ringing, and the scanners were squawking. But, nobody was
there. I knew from the night before that everyone from WWL
had gone to the Hyatt near the Superdome. So we raced over
there to tell them their station was OK, their uplink was
in good shape, and ask if we could please feed some tape.
As we pulled into the Hyatt, we could see the entire rear
side of the building had been blown out. Linens, bedsheets,
furniture, just hanging there.... and the water was starting
to rise. We got to the motor lobby and found one of the WWL
managers. We told him the station was fine and still had power.
We offered to drive him over, but he grabbed a few other staffers,
jumped into one of their SUV's and we all drove over together.
We all walked in the backdoor, ran to the master control area,
came up on IA6 and started feeding whatever we had. We popped
our DVC Pro tape out of Kevin's camera, slammed it into a
machine, started rewinding, and rolled what we had for the
world. The phone lines at WWL still worked, so I was able
to get Miami on the line to confirm they were rolling. We
fed back the storm video, the bird, the debris flying everywhere,
our standup at the Sheraton motor lobby, and everything else
we had. Little did I know but CNN was cherry picking the feed...
and before I'd even had a chance to call my own family to
tell them I was OK, they were rolling the tape of me in my
yellow rain slicker, getting blown around and knocked on my
face by Katrina's fury.
The tape generated a lot of emails and calls. I have no regrets.
I was sent to cover a storm. We're in the TV business... and
standing in the wind and rain is what we do. We're were smart
about it though, always had each other's backs, and were paying
close attention to what was whizzing by us. We only stayed
out as long as necessary to show the viewers what it was really
like at quarter past 8 in the morning that day Katrina blew
through. Some liked it, some hated it, some griped and complained,
others were shocked by the power of nature our report was
able to effectively demonstrate. I was told the CNN anchor
who introduced the tape made a crack at the end of the clip
as if I was stupid. I was a little annoyed. Don't editorialize
unless you've been there... and I doubt that anchor had ever
been in a category 4. What was on tape is what really happened.
We stand by our efforts to document nature's fury at 8:15
in the morning in New Orleans and to share that experience
with our viewers.
That night we worked out of WWL until it was clear it just
wasn't safe to stay and the WWL staff left the French Quarter
facility for Baton Rouge. We hooked up with the crews from
CBS Network who had set up temporary camp at the Hilton. People
were walking around town in a daze. We were already hearing
horror stories from inside the SuperDome. We moved down to
Canal Street and the decision was made by CBS to move someplace
safer. The levy had been breached and there was a report that
downtown New Orleans could by under 12 feet of water in a
few hours. Plus, we were hearing reports of carjackings, stabbings,
and wild looters. We moved to the top of I-10 near Tchopitoulous,
slept in our cars, and regrouped for morning live shots. Eventually
we would move to Kenner where we would catch up with other
crews from WFOR and CBS Newspath.
This just covers Monday and Tuesday 2 weeks ago... I haven't
even gotten to the dead bodies, the filth, the human torment,
the elderly people in tears, the animals roaming the streets
looking for their owners.... the people running up to our
rental cars begging for rides out of town...
I'll save that for another entry... but let me just say we
had one hell of a great team in New Orleans: Photographers
Kevin Martsells, Manny Alvarez, Tim McFarland, Rudy Marshall,
David Bernard (our new weatherman) and Mike Kirsch (one of
our finest reporters).
FROM NEW ORLEANS 3 HOURS BEFORE KATRINA IS TO HIT
By Brian Andrews
You know it's going to be bad when the networks start pulling
their trucks out. At 7pm tonight, all of them were heading
for Baton Rouge. With the big trucks gone, CNN is using a
videophone to get out. We're looking to WWL for help out of
their earth station. There's fiber at the Super Dome, but
no one can figure out how to use it. We managed to get a few
look lives out before WWL shut down their studio on the edge
of the French Quarter and headed for higher ground. Now, we
wait. It's going to be a long night. What may be one of the
strongest storms to ever hit the U.S. is coming ashore in
just a few hours and I have a front row seat. While other
crews have hightailed it out of town, we decided to stay.
With no trucks or uplinks, it looks like lots of phoners until
the floodwaters clear and the trucks return.
Tonight, I'm sitting in the corner of the Ballroom at the
New Orleans Sheraton. I'm looking around at more than 500
people (in just the section of ballroom I'm in) who will be
spending the night on the floor (with pillows and comforters
of course) to ride out the storm. The ballroom is on the 5th
floor so the floodwaters shouldn't be a problem. I'm exhausted.
We've spent the entire day running around doing packges and
look lives. We flew in Saturday afternoon and immediately
started working on a package for 10pm and 11pm. We got stuck
in the contraflow traffic and had to make our way into town
through the back streets. We shot a lot of our own tape, then
popped by WWL to dub some aerials and some other b-roll. We
cut the package in the WWL breakroom, then drove down to the
edge of the Mississippi River to find the Newspath truck to
feed it. We ended up doing look lives for a couple of the
CBS O&O's, plus a piece for Newspath, plus our 10pm and
11pm newscasts in Miami. Then, it was off to the hotel. T
At 7am, we were at it again, grabbing some food at the hotel
(what I thought would be our last real meal of the day) and
heading out to the truck for morning live shots. We did an
hour at 8am and another at 11am. In between the shows, we
ran out and shot some fresh tape. My photographer, Kevin Martsells,
jumped through the fence onto I-10 to get some great traffic
jam shots and grabbed some sound from a few motorists stuck
in the heavy traffic heading out of town. We ran back to the
truck, bulk fed the material, then fronted all of it in a
series of live shots that took up most of the hour. From 12pm
until 2pm, we drove around getting new video for our afternoon
package, and raced over to one of the last trucks in town
to work on an afternoon package. We fed look lives for the
O&O's and a few of our other affiliate friends, then headed
off to the hotel to find food and come up with a game plan.
The hotel had slipped a note under our doors to let us know
we wouldn't be able to sleep in our rooms. Instead, we're
all camping out in the ballroom, together. We grabbed a bite
to eat at the restaurant, then ran to the ballroom to shoot
a bunch of walk and talks. We drove over to WWL to feed them
out since they're the only uplink still operating. On the
drive over to the station, my photographer grabbed some quick
video of the streets of New Orleans BEFORE Katrina. I'm glad
we got the tape. I want to compare the shots when it's all
said and done.
WWL was down to a skeleton crew when we arrived. It had been
a very long day for everyone in that newsroom, but they were
all in great moods and eager to help. When we got our tape
out, the News Director asked us to front some of our material
for them from their set to help them fill the time. We were
glad to help. They told me they were shutting down the newsroom
at 10:30 and moving to higher ground. We got out of there
and headed back to the hotel. Now, here I am, sitting at my
laptop, thinking about how we got here.
I'm thinking about my house in Miami Shores which is still
a mess from Katrina's arrival in South Florida Thursday. I
lost two trees and didn't have power when I jumped in the
car Saturday afternoon to catch the flight to New Orleans
from MIA. I was in Atlanta at the start of the week covering
the Butch Hinton Murder Trial. He's accused of killing an
Emory University student from Miami 11 years ago in Atlanta.
We cut short our coverage of the trial to come back to South
Florida in time for Katrina. We did a 6pm liveshot from the
courthouse in Decatur, then raced to Hartsfield for a 7:30
flight. We made it, but only because the flight had been delayed
by an hour. The next morning, Photographer Manel Coleau and
I were sent to Ft. Lauderdale for what ended up being a 16
hour shift to cover Katrina. We were up against a building
at Las Olas and A1A and the storm came crashing ashore during
the early evening hours. The storm was a category 1 when it
hit South Florida. 7 people died. The next day we were in
Homestead covering the floods left behind from Katrina. 24-hours
later, I was on a plane to New Orleans. Now I wonder, how
long will it be before I'm on a plane heading back to Miami?
So, I'll try to catch an hour in between phoners for WFOR,
CBS Radio, and the Weather Channel. I love having a front
row seat to history. I just hope this one isn't as bad as
they're saying it's going to be.
Brian Andrews is an Anchor/Reporter at WFOR, the CBS O&O
in Miami. He travels extensively for the station covering
the big national and international stories. Brian met Hal
covering the Michael Jackson Trial in Santa Maria. Isn't it
amazing how other people's misfortune brings nice people together!
BRIAN'S BLOG: PART TWO KATRINA 2:41AM ET You know you've
made it big when your friends from other markets are emailing
you and calling you to say they saw you in a cutaway or some
b-roll on CNN, The Weather Channel, etc. It also brings people
out of the woodwork you haven't heard from in years... including
some girl you had the hots for when you were 14 and spent
your summers on the Jersey Shore (She emailed to say she's
married with two kids, and was watching with her husband.)
The ballroom here at the Sheraton is quiet, for the most part.
The TV is on in the background, people are snoring, little
dogs are yelping, and yes, some large woman sleeping two blankets
away from me just cut the cheese in her slumber. How nice.
I just got up to look out the window. It's coming down pretty
hard. You can see the wind sweeping the rain down a deserted
Canal Street. There's a billboard next to the hotel that seems
to be vibrating. I'm sure the giant panels on that thing will
be the first to go when we start getting the sustained hurricane
force winds. I'm getting the munchies, but have nothing to
eat. I just did my 3rd cup of coffee. My shooter is catching
a cat nap. I told him I'd like to leave the hotel around 4am
and go check out the flooding. I called over to WWL to see
if anybody was still in their building to feed tape. Look's
like they're all at LSU now for their coverage. Doesn't look
like I'll be getting any tape out of them for a while. Oh,
gotta go file a phoner.