Setting Up Shop

 E-mail Rick!

Sept. 7, 2004 10:05 a.m.

Covering a hurricane is always a challenge, on many levels. The goal is to be in a position to report on the storm as it comes ashore, as close to “ground zero” as is safely possible. The problem is hurricanes are extremely unpredictable. Even the best technology money can buy offers only an educated guess of the storm’s path, and because of the logistics involved in doing satellite live shots for the news channel, with multiple crews and hourly hits, it’s very difficult to pick up and move locations.

You also run into problems if you just pull the truck over anywhere and set up to go live when a hurricane is coming. If the satellite dish isn’t protected from the wind gusts as low as 20 to 30 miles-per-hour can knock the signal right off the air. 

Ideally, you park the truck behind a building with at least one high wall between the dish and the beach to block the wind, and you run cable to a spot where the reporter has some kind of cover from flying debris, like a hotel balcony.

Since we already had a truck and two crews in Melbourne, near Daytona Beach, the bosses in New York wanted us to find a spot in South Florida, in either Miami-Dade, Broward, or Palm Beach County.  Friday morning my producer Gary Gastelu, our engineer Don Collopy, and I went scouting for locations in the Fort Lauderdale area, and I decided to check out Lago Mar, a beautiful “old Florida” style beachfront resort hotel.  I’d stayed there several times in the past.  I actually lived at the hotel for three weeks back in 1992 after Hurricane Andrew knocked power out at my house in Miami.

Anyway, as soon as we pulled up, I knew it would be a perfect location. There was a wide driveway by the front door with a five-story building offering protection from winds from the north and east, and an opening south allowing the dish to hit the “bird” (satellite) in the sky. There was a breezeway right next to this parking spot and access to a stairwell door, so we could run cable directly to the beach some 300 yards away, and/or upstairs to a room with a balcony if we needed to go live inside.

The place looked deserted, but the lobby door was open and Eric, the hotel manager, was behind the front desk. I introduced myself and told him we were looking for a place to do live shots about the approaching hurricane and could use several rooms for the crew if at all possible. Eric called the owner’s daughter, Debbie, who was actually staying at the hotel with her husband Chip and their two young children. She called her Dad, Walter Banks, who agreed to let us stay. We promptly called Miami Bureau Chief Nancy Harmeyer who was coordinating our hurricane coverage. She gave us the green light to move in and set up shop and asked if we could put up a couple other crews, including some guys from Sky News, our British sister network. We wound up getting 15 rooms, plus a beautiful oceanfront top-floor suite we could use as a workspace and live position. We also wound up becoming great friends with Mr. Banks and his family, who are very generous and terrific people.

As it turned out, we got some strong winds and plenty of rain in Fort Lauderdale where tens of thousands of people lost power and there was minor flooding and trees down. However, this was far from the heart of the storm, so after doing live shots all day and night Friday and Saturday it was decided we should move locations and head north towards Stuart where the eye had come ashore.

We worked till 2 a.m. Sunday, got a couple hours sleep, then met in the lobby at 6 a.m. to begin our journey north. That was the beginning one of the craziest, busiest, and most incredible days I’ve ever had at FOX News Channel.

That story next.

Hi Rick,
Thank you so so so much for the coverage from Ft Lauderdale to Stuart Fl.  I am in Tennessee and a Faithful Fox Fan/ and a lot of my family are in Stuart, Ft Lauderdale area, and I was so happy you were there and brought us live coverage.

FOX & Rick friend for life!
Cinde Lee in Tennessee/tell Stuart & Florida we are praying for them!!!!

Rick- A big fan of Fox. We watched your coverage as you rode into Iraq (with a fellow Air Guardsman). My girlfriend and I awaited your segments, especially you and Shep ribbing eachother. You bring back the credibility the press deserves. Good luck and "Good on ya" (Air Force Term).
— Pete (Clinton, MS)

I want to thank you for your recent hurricane coverage in Florida.  I can't explain why, but watching you and your fellow reporters out there during the storm was comforting while branches flew past our windows and bounced off the roof.  You've done a wonderful job keeping us informed and glued to our TVs.  Thanks to your reporting, I now know that it's a horrible idea to go out for batteries and cigarettes while a hurricane is bearing down on the area.
PS - If Geraldo does give you the dashing yellow jumpsuit he wore during Frances, I would love to see you put that on.  Humor is always a welcome relief when you're consumed with thoughts like, "is my roof going to fly off?", and "how long before that tree falls on my car?"


Have you ever considered a safer line of work,  such as chasing Tornados across Oklahoma and Kansas?
Paul in Florida  (a displaced Oklahoma native)

It's refreshing to see someone reporting on the hurricane down here who doesn't look like a complete a** like every other local network. Ever since Andrew, we've been bombarded with non-stop local broadcasts of any storm, and most of the time, the coverage is redundant and frankly, comical.  FOX's coverage was much better than the local stations. You were able to give relevant and pertinent information that was worth watching instead of turning off.
You may as well stay in Florida to cover Ivan next week...hopefully that won't be the case but I'm keeping my shutters up.  Keep up your rambles - I'm usually at work when you're on the air, so it's the only way to "see" your commentary.
— Annmarie (Miami, FL)


By, the way... my family LOVES you!  We have since the Iraqi War began. Every time you came on it was like an 'old friend' had come on T.V. with everyone saying "Rick's on!"
Thanks for all you do.
Sherrie (Hurricane Hugo survivor too!)
Charleston, SC