Chasing Hurricane Matthew.... by drone!
There are few things quite like driving down a massive interstate alone, while everybody else is heading the other direction; but that is the situation we found ourselves in earlier in October.
Our mission - get to Melbourne, Florida, and get our drones ready for aerial coverage of Hurricane Matthew for The Weather Channel.
We packed up the gear, stopped by the store for some non-perishable foods (if I ever see another PopTart again, it’ll be too soon), filled up the gas tank and gas cans, and headed south.
Once we met up with our team - producers Steve Petyerak and Mike Fomil, photojournalist Brad Reynolds, satellite truck operator Trey Howell, and of course, the man nobody wants to see before a storm - Jim Cantore.
They say if you see Jim Cantore come to your town, it’s time to leave, because something bad is about to happen. What does it mean if you’re cramped in the very same rental house with him? We were TOAST!
The next morning, we were up flying early on Melbourne Beach, getting some cool “before” shots, and listening to Jim tell viewers about the impending hurricane, which at that point, was a category 4.
Afterwards, a quick meeting of the minds to decide where the best and safest place would be to ride out the storm, and then we went on the move to Fort Pierce.
This time, we shacked up in two hotels — the Hampton Inn and the Comfort Suites - and much to my surprise, the wonderful manager at the Hampton Inn - Diane - allowed us to use the oven to cook some of the delicious food Trey had brought along with him.
Once the revelry and feasting was over, things started to get real. Wind speeds started to flirt with hurricane strength - around 70 miles per hour - and while we couldn’t fly the drone, we were in for the long haul, helping Jim, Steve and the rest of the crew keep their shot on the air.
Daylight broke, and along with it came calmer winds, and we set out to see what damage we could show via drone. We found some in Flagler Beach, some in Jacksonville, and much of the beach in between was completely closed to anybody.
Meanwhile, a second Atlanta Drone team was dispatched to Charleston to cover the epic floods that were brewing thanks to the hurricane, and they again head East while everybody else was heading West.
That team got even more amazing shots of flooded streets in Charleston - the likes of which they haven’t seen in many years.
All in all, our two teams were honored to be a part of the coverage, even in some small way, to help provide viewers with context, education and safety warnings you could only truly appreciate from the air.
When it was all said and done, and I had time to reflect, my friends at WABE’s A Closer Look, Rose Scott, Jim Burress and producer Candace Wheeler, gave me the opportunity to talk about our coverage of the storm by drone.
If you have 12 minutes to spare, take a listen:
Until the next storm,