This week, as Tropical Storm Isaac threatens to become a hurricane and strike Florida and the Gulf Coast, and we at AccuWeather.com experiment with new technology such as answering questions via Tout (note the increase in professionalism from video to video below), it humbles me to look back at our beginnings at reporting weather stories, especially during hurricane season.
My long-time readers will know that I first started blogging for AccuWeather.com during Hurricane Katrina in 2005. At the time, blogging was the cutting-edge technology that we latched onto in the days before the storm (I was the second blogger at AccuWeather.com, to compliment Carl Schaad's redesign blog). My third blog, about Katrina, can still be read on our website, although I've dug through some archives to piece together the screen shot of what it really looked like seven years ago:
But my history of bringing you hurricane news predates that, by far. Although the first weather news story launched on AccuWeather.com (which I wrote) was during a severe weather outbreak in April 1999, Hurricane Floyd was the big story that year. Check out this late-90's style TV graphic which I re-purposed for our Internet story then:
I can vaguely remember pulling my first all-nighter during Floyd, sitting at my desk on the AccuWeather.com Operations Floor, updating those headlines. Since then, I've gone through many long days and weeks covering hurricanes for AccuWeather. Working overtime, living on caffeine and snacks, going to bed late and getting up early. In 2001, Tropical Storm Allison dropped 42 inches of rain on Texas, and I was there with my first photoshop creation -- a combination of two of our television graphics!
Back then, I was the only person who could create the weather stories -- today we have a team of a dozen wonderful folks who report on hurricanes, but I still pull long days and nights helping them out. No matter how many people are covering a storm, it's never enough -- now so even more than during the old days before social media, when we also had less information to work with.
Why do we do it? Simple: We strive to bring the Internet the most complete, most accurate hurricane coverage so that we can get the word out to the most people in the widest area. Our company mission is to "save lives and protect property" and this is the season when we shine.
This week in 2008, I was blogging about Hurricane Gustav, which was threatening oil production (and the Republican National Convention, sound familiar?) The week after that, I followed an incredible storm from formation to destruction: Hurricane Ike (below: The Last House Standing).
In fact, with credit of our news writers (who coined the term), I've been here for all the retired "iStorms" -- in addition to Ike, Igor, Isadore and Iris were severe enough to have their names discontinued by the World Meteorological Organization. I covered Hurricane Isabel in 2003 not only in the headlines on AccuWeather.com, but posted a post-storm summary in our AccuWeather.com Premium "What's Up" Newsletter:
That leaves two storms dear to my heart, but which caused severe flooding here in Pennsylvania: Ivan in 2004 and Irene just last year in 2011. In mid-September 2004 after Hurricane Ivan combined with a front to release copious amounts of rainfall, I took photographs here in Centre County of the worst flooding since at least 1972, in a report for WeatherMatrix.Net which is now archived here in my blog:
And of course, just one year ago this week, I took my first official storm chase as a reporter and photographer for AccuWeather.com, hiding out at my girlfriend's house in York, Pennsylvania where Hurricane Irene downed trees and took out power, taking photos of the damage the whole time.
While that night was nearly unforgettable, it was nothing compared to the extreme flooding photos that I would take in early September when the remnants of Tropical Storm Lee caused rivers to rise to levels even higher than 1972 in Eastern Pennsylvania.
If we had more time, I'd get off the iStorms and talk about my experiences chasing Hurricanes Fran and Bertha in 1996, and the destruction at my childhood home in 1989 from Hurricane Hugo (which actually is well documented in this blog) -- but those are stories for another day, for now I must get back to monitoring Hurricane Isaac.
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