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Sept. 8, 2004 10:23 a.m.

How’s this for a day: 16 live shots in 20 hours from 5 locations in 3 counties. Plus 6 phoners, using two satellite trucks, a vehicular M-4 videophone, and multiple cell phones, in between and during the outer bands of Hurricane Frances. We went from Fort Lauderdale to Lake Worth to Palm Beach Gardens to Jupiter to Stuart to Jensen Beach to Port St. Lucie, back to Jensen Beach, back to Stuart, and then down to Miami to sleep. Rescuing some guy from his car was just one of the adventures of one of the busiest and remarkable days of my television career.

Our call time was 5:30 a.m. Sunday, the morning Frances hit Florida’s coast. We’d been reporting on the storm for two days but missed the worst of it, and wanted to get up north to survey the damages and file reports from the hardest hit areas. With two hours of sleep but plenty of motivation, we rolled onto I-95 in a convoy of five vehicles. My buddy Don Collopy (an FNC Sat Truck Engineer) was driving our rental Expedition. I rode shotgun with a DV Cam, ready to shoot tape if we saw any significant damages. Producer Gary Gastelu was in the back. Joel Fagan, an FNC cameraman out of our Atlanta bureau, was following in his truck, which was equipped with the M-4 videophone and vehicular antennae. Producer/Editor Mike Amor was also in the caravan, along with one of my bosses from L.A., Ken LaCorte, in town to help coordinate our coverage. Last but not least, we met up with a couple of freelancers from Atlanta, Jake and Anthony, who followed us from their hotel on PGA Blvd. in a small satellite truck.

Near Lake Worth, driving in the middle lane through a construction zone, I looked to my right and was astonished to see a huge chunk of the interstate had washed out in the storm! This was no pothole.  A section of road at least 20-feet long had simply collapsed, the dirt under it washed away.  Any car that didn’t see the hole would’ve driven straight into it and probably tumbled down the hill and into a water-filled ditch at the bottom. We pulled off the road and sent Mike back to shoot it while I called 9-1-1. When we drove by 48 hours later, the right lane was closed off and they were still working to repair the damage.

Once Mike was done shooting the sinkhole, we rolled north again. When we reached Jupiter, Don yelled “Oh my God!” and abruptly pulled to the shoulder. “There’s a car back there in the ditch!” he said, jumping out. I grabbed the camera and we all tumbled from the car and fought our way through the driving rain and wind back down the highway. I started taping as Don and Gary approached the swamped car to see if anyone was inside. I assumed the vehicle would be empty, since the car didn’t look too badly damaged. I just figured whoever was in it would’ve gotten out, or been rescued already.

I was wrong.  “There’s someone in there!” they yelled, and began banging on the car.  “Sir, are you o.k.?” they asked.  I handed the camera to Mike Amor and jumped in to help snap off some of the branches and get closer to the car.  We didn’t want to try and move the guy if he was injured, since there were no ambulances or police officers in sight. It took the guy a while to respond, but he finally did, assuring us he was O.K.  Then, to our amazement, he lit a cigarette and stepped out of the car, a bit dazed-looking and wet but otherwise apparently fine. He told me he’d heard there was a store open and needed “supplies,” specifically batteries and cigarettes. He headed out into the thick of the storm, pulling over twice because he was blinded by the bad weather, finally running off the road and into the soggy marsh at 3 a.m.  His cell wouldn’t work, and he was disoriented, and passed out.  Five hours later, we arrived. 

We set up the videophone because the winds were too strong to put up the satellite dish, did a live shot by the side of the road for the weekend FOX & Friends, [ed. note: Click the video tab up top to watch Rick's report!] then shot an “as-live” on tape, while Mike Amor went off looking for a cop.  Eventually we flagged down a passing police car and told him what was going on.  We all packed up and took off as the officer was reprimanding our new best friend, Paul Bulko, for trying to drive in a hurricane.

On the return trip, they were closing the causeway, and told us once we left, we wouldn’t be allowed back. We found a beachfront condominium in Port St. Lucie with a pier falling into the ocean, and some badly damaged buildings next door, so we set up and went live there three times. We packed up again and drove down A1A in search of Geraldo, who was working out of our D.C. Satellite truck, while Jake and Anthony, who were dangerously low on gas, left in search of fuel.

Later we drove all the way to Miami, which was the closest place we could find rooms with electricity and running water. The trip took about two hours, but was worth it.  We got a hot shower and a good night’s sleep, and were up again the next morning to drive back to Stuart, a three-hour-drive in heavy traffic. We found the only open gas station in town, with lines of cars stretching several blocks, and went live there all day, illustrating the hardships Frances has left in her wake. No one could figure out how the owner of the Shell was getting power, since every other business in every direction was dark.  When I asked him, he told me, "All my profits are going to a healing center I'm building in Palm City. God made this happen."  He sold gas until his tanks went dry the next day.

Hi Rick

Hope you got some well deserved sleep. Like everyone else I am huge FOX Fan ........love your bits with Shepo!

The other day I was watching you on TV and said, "Hey it's Rick and, look he is clean!" And just started to laugh.

Good Job Rick.............we need more RICK TV!

Hugs from Nevada

Rick,

I am a smoker. I know how we get. However, no craving can substantiate getting behind the wheel in a category 3 Hurricane to get a pack of smokes.

With Warm Regards,

Kevin


I have been keeping up with you on FOX News for quite some time now.  I think the coverage of Hurricane Frances has been impeccable.  But what I really wanted to say is that when the War in Iraq started you were there from the start and I watched you every day, you are an excellent person with a big heart and I just wanted to say thanks!! Way to go.
 
Ana in Atlanta

Thanks for your GREAT!!!! coverage on the hurricane!!! I have turned all my friends & family on to FOX News! They're hooked now! You did make us feel safe, informed and the humor was the most important. I loved watching Geraldo broadcast sideways..(lol) ha ha ha! It was nice also that everyone's family had the extra comfort to know they could constantly keep tabs on their familes in a small way.

— Audra (Clearwater, FL)


Love every broadcast .. from Iraq to Florida.. Awesome and inspiring to see someone tell it like it is.
 
I only watch FOX for the news anyway because of the fair broadcasting and you have given me another reason to tune in. Love it :) thank you so much.. Keep up the Great work.
 
Terena, Louisiana


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)

Rick,
 
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.
 
Mary
 
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?"


Rick,

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



Rick,
 
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)


Rick,

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