Reporter's Notebook: Waiting for Wilma

Jeff Goldblatt

Friday, October 21 — 10:20pm:

$458.57 — That was the damage inflicted at the Wal-Mart in Ft. Myers as we stockpiled necessities for Wilma. Tom's flashlight made the cut. Picked out a stainless steel Mag-Light for myself. Amid, the heap of ecclectic non-perishables, the light blue boxes of baby wipes were the most colorful items purchased. I've never been sure why the manufacturers of baby wipes make their packaging so bright. Perhaps, it's to help the bleary-eyed parents of the world during those unspeakable hours of the night.

Pardon the digression. Back to Wilma and our preparation.

My shopping spree at Wal-Mart was far from "mission accomplished," as some of the most vital items were picked clean from the shelves. An irony of these storms is that although meteorologists predict rain by the inches, there's typically NO bottled water to be found in the supermarket. Ice coolers were sold out too. A few stops later, we found enough water to supply a parched camel. Shopping complete.

A mandatory evacuation order has been issued for Ft. Myers Beach, where we have decided to ride out the least for now. Typically, my fate during a hurricane is about as unpredictable as the storm itself. Just because you start out in Ft. Myers does not mean it's where you will end up. It's all up to Mother Nature and the "mother ship" of FOX News. One place, however, I hope to be nowhere near is New Orleans. No one deserves a hit from a hurricane, and those people have already suffered enough!

On the most miniscule of levels, this writer is currently grappling with a gut-wrenching situation himself. The karaoke, tone-deaf rendition of Bon Jovi, belting from the stage where I am trying to eat, is one of the more mind bending things I have ever heard. Kind of reminds me of a hungry dog howling for his food.

Thursday, October 20:

Sleeping bag. Check. Rain gear. Check. Flashlight. Forgot it. @#$%!!! Looks like I'll be picking one up in Ft. Myers. Same with my photographer. He usually packs three flashlights, or so he tells me. Left them at home along with ALL of his clothes. At least he has a plausible explanation. Tom is a first-time father. This is his first out-of-town trip since the birth of his daughter two weeks ago.

Speaking of babies...@#$%!!! Just realized I forgot another essential: baby wipes. Those dainty sheets of soft material go a long way when a water system is knocked off-line and you're sorely in need of a shower.

After covering three hurricanes this summer (Dennis, Katrina, Rita), and many more over the years, you'd think I'd have the knack of packing for these trying and, some might argue, maddening journalistic adventures. The flashlight forgetfulness shines a light on reality.

Wilma is a frightening beast. It's foolish to think that just because we flirt with Mother Nature's fury, that we don't weigh the dangers of these storms. Preparation is the key: mentally, physically and logistically.

In my book (not that I have any intention of writing one), logistics take top priority: A sheltered hotel, an experienced and technically savvy crew, a capable and sound-minded satellite truck operator. They are all of utmost importance in the fight to keep you on the air. If a car is missing a key part, it won't run. Same goes in my business — more so during a hurricane when a string of sleepless nights is as inevitable as the meals of tuna fish, beef jerky, and chips of all varieties.