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Weather Channel field reporters get up close and personal with Charley


To cover Charley, The Weather Channel sent its own satellite newsgathering vehicle to Florida and contracted with satellite truck operators for four other vehicles.

Accurate weather forecasting and reporting during an event like Hurricane Charley is critical to the safety of the residents and business owners in the storm’s path.

But there’s another, often overlooked, group with an equal interest in how the hurricane’s path will impact their welfare: the reporters and SNG crews covering the event.

At The Weather Channel in Atlanta, the task of positioning field reporters close enough to the storm to file relevant stories, yet far enough away to maintain their safety falls to hurricane expert Dr. Steve Lyons and a team of producers.

The Weather Channel typically positions SNG crews in the path of a hurricane, but pulls the plug on those positions prior to the development of life-threatening conditions and repositions those crews for later reports. For Charley, The Weather Channel positioned three crews from Ft. Meyers to the Florida panhandle on the front side of the storm and then swept in with crews on the trailing edge as the hurricane passed through Daytona Beach.

As Charley changed its direction, so did The Weather Channel reporters, but one rule remained constant: never jeopardize the safety of the crews or equipment. From a practical point of view, that meant re-evaluating the situation when hurricane winds reached 45 mph to 65 mph range, said The Weather Channel vice president of broadcast operations Nathan Smith.

At that point, an SNG truck’s antenna and mount are susceptible to damage. While it is possible to cheat the storm somewhat by positioning the uplink vehicle behind a building to shelter it from direct exposure to the winds or turning the vehicle so it’s not broadside to the wind, those steps only go so far. When the 45 mph to 65 mph limit is reached, it’s time to retract the antenna and head for safer ground, he said. Ultimately, that’s the call of the operator in charge of the truck.

To cover Charley, The Weather Channel sent its own satellite newsgathering vehicle to Florida and contracted with satellite truck operators for four other vehicles. All were Ku-band trucks with 2.4-meter antennas, and each transmitted digital video back to The Weather Channel in Atlanta.

For Charley, rain fade wasn’t an issue - not because there weren’t intense rains, but rather The Weather Channel abandoned areas that were in the direct path of the hurricane about an hour before it hit.

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