Storm Light : F5 Moore Tornado TV Coverage : Oklahoma

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This is part of a set that is being published today in the Sunday Times Magazine about the TV coverage of the F5 Moore Tornado in Oklhoma
……. Its the lead Story in Spectrum the world photography section……… if you are in the UK you really should rush out and buy a copy of The
Sunday Times :)……… or you can see it online here I wrote this at the time :.
I was in a gas station on the border of Oklahoma and Arkansas when I heard the terrible breaking news from Moore a giant tornado had
destroyed much of the town. It was already being called an ‘unsurvivable storm’ for anyone not in an underground shelter and ‘the most
powerful tornado ever recorded’. This was shocking world news, I was only a few hundred miles away.
So I immediately rolled back the way I had come already that day. Alone traveling in this direction on the highway as I needed to head through
the black storm front that had brought with it and formed the giant tornado. I listened intently to the extreme weather warnings the radio
constantly screetching with the warning siren….. “People in the followung three Counties must Take cover” ….. To deliberately head into that
storm felt scary and a slightly crazy thing to do but it was all fine after a little drama with giant ice hail.
When I arrived in Moore the scene was of completely shocking devastation and almost unprecedented destruction. People kept saying ‘like a
war zone’ but the destruction was more leveling and total than any war zone I have ever seen…… and I have seen a fair few.
It was so sad to meet with survivors and see their destroyed homes. Unbearably sadder still to hear of the fatalities at the school and
The destruction zone was huge, 17 miles long and 1.5 miles wide but the police like to round up all media and keep them corralled in a small
area of the destruction zone. So as time went on and as more and more TV crews arrived we were all corralled together, a few printed press
people and still photographers but scores and scores of TV crews. Slightly surreally all TV crews built a little ‘set’ area to operate from. They
first park their ‘Satellite Uplink’ vehicles then they get out their cameras and microphones and then light the area they will operate from . Then
their correspondents get to work broadcasting, often interviewing survivors as their guests when they ‘go live’. Some operations are more
elaborate than others, some have a very theatrical feel with many vehicles and many lights on the bit of destruction they have incorporated as
their ‘set backdrop’.
It became particularly surreal to me as the light began to fade and the early evening news programs were all buzzing with the news feeds from
Oklahoma. A glow rose from the darkness of SW6 Street ………. a place that other than the TV crews self generated power and light had
absolutely no electricity and was in total blackout. Every house on that street was destroyed and on the driveway of every house was a TV
correspondent and a crew. That correspondent was lit and so was the backdrop of the destroyed house. I was fascinated by the phenomena
of the live TV broadcasts from each of the temporary ‘sets’.
I stood with one survivor on his lawn, his destroyed house behind us, we were both watching a famous TV Anchor man sometimes called by
other onlookers ‘The Silver Fox’ broadcasting for the famed CNN network , on the drive next door. The destroyed house of his neighbor is all
lit up like a film set, the survivor turned to me and said : ” You know your town is in trouble……. when you see the Anderson Cooper standing
right there on your neighbors drive.”
[ 17 ] comments
Sounds like something from ‘Drop the Dead Donkey.’
Hugh @ June 15, 2013, 11:09 pm
Yes up close media coverage of disasters can be a little surreal…… and there are conventions as to how it should be done……. the
TV modus operandi in the US is to park your Sat truck fix up the uplink plug into it… get all your generators fired up then not really
move from the spot. I remember going down to New Orleans during the Katrina aftermath….. on the way I was unable to see any
BBC stuff that has more ‘packages’…… basically more stuff shot round and about giving you a much fuller picture …… I couldnt
quite belive the CNN coverage with Solidat O Brian…… it was limited to just her interviewing people by their sat truck …… it might as
well have been radio they never showed any other footage of the big picture…… it was very frustrating for me as I wanted to know
what had really happened and what it all looked like……… but this seemed even odder really because the police have this thing
about corralling the press……. Im never quite sure why? So everyone is forced to operate and broadcast cheek by jowel from the
same street…….. instead of having TV crews spread out over the 17 mile disaster zone and really cover what is happening ? …….
so it becomes totally surreal……. a TV crew on every drive………
Cheers bro Jez XXXXXXXXXX
Jezblog London :))
XXX @ June 16, 2013, 8:20 am
Terrible… But,the news rooms may see it as a sure fire ratings winner?.. I dont know for sure, you will know better than most I guess..
Nature dont hang about when she gets angry does she?.. Hope all is good Bro.. xx
PaulS @ June 16, 2013, 8:11 am
I think this kind of disaster makes very moving TV……. a large number of stations show up from all over…… if you look in the
Sunday Times Mag you will see correspondents from Brazil as well as the famed US anchors like Anderson Cooper of CNN and
others……… And these are tragic stories…… its important to cover them…… and it does lead to large charitable donations in the US
to help people affected recover…….
I used to hardly even believe in Tornados…….. I mean us Brits have all seen the wizzard of Oz…… I felt surely the yellow brick road
the Wizzard and the Twister all came out of the same imagination…… then later I understood twisters were a real phenomena …….
but only much more recently have I really got into properly believing they were a serious threat.
When I was driving back towards a horizon where the clouds are as black as night on my own……. and I am listening to the
screetch of the extreme weather siren and warnings coming out of the radio “residents of Jackson County must take cover ”
Confirmed Tornado on the ground” “ice hail warning golf ball size’ “risk of serious injury and death” “residents must take cover” I am
stopped under a motorway bridge tryin to work out if I am in Jefferson county…….. the bridge will protect the car from the ice storm
hail but thats a hell of a dangerous place to park if a tornado is really coming……
By that time…… you really are starting to be seriously aware of how fast things can change and how angry it all can get……….. and
when you finally see what happened in Moore ….. yeah its really true…… you are never gonna be flippant about tornado warnings
ever again……. ://///
Jezblog London :))
XXX @ June 16, 2013, 8:39 am
Amazing spread in the ST such a sad business.
Martin J H @ June 16, 2013, 8:19 pm
Yes the whole time I was there I had a feeling of sadness…….. it really oppresses you to see much destruction……. the slightly
surreal TV crews and their actions were a slightly lighter aspect to the whole time there.
Cheers Jez XXXXXX
Jezblog London :))
XXX @ June 17, 2013, 2:41 am
I’m currently working on assignment for a magazine, writing a feature piece (deadline today, eek!)
that explores images of destruction. In the USA, we’ve had so many of these storms and so much film and photographic coverage of
them, that it seems a couple things are happening 1) the images are starting to lose their impact and 2) it’s becoming difficult for people
to distinguish one area of destruction from another … so in some ways this lessens the viewer’s empathy … which makes a person start
to wonder: are there any new and creative ways to cover these storms? … Certainly images covering the storm coverage, as you have
here, are indeed a fresh and welcomed approach … but it is definitely challenging to find ways to cover these storms with images that
have impact and are unique.
Lynda @ June 17, 2013, 3:52 pm
Yes, this stuff looks at the storm but also the convention of how a storm and it’s resulting destruction is covered. All this stuff has
conventions of approach it is interesting to break out of the expected convention sometimes……. clearly you are in the same
narrative arc I guess in all these storms…. but the reality is each has terrible impact on groups of individuals……… just because you
as a viewer have seen similar images does not make that particular event totally horrific for the people that suffer…….. and I think
the photographer is aware of that in being present….. but the images may have similarities to previous events for the viewer ……
sometimes I guess its hard to tell certain types of visual story significantly differently but I agree if you can do it a viewer may have
a renewed empathy for the people whose story is being told.
Jezblog London :))
XXX @ June 17, 2013, 4:46 pm
“writing a feature piece that explores images of destruction.”…just get an image of the NSA headquarters…that should pretty much
cover it.
Harv.! @ June 17, 2013, 6:16 pm
Hee hee, maybe something like this? … or this?
Lynda @ June 17, 2013, 8:06 pm
Send us a link to the article when its done Lynda :))
Cheers Jez XXXXXXX
Jezblog London :))
XXX @ June 18, 2013, 9:19 am
Thanks! Will do 🙂
Lynda @ June 18, 2013, 1:45 pm
Check this out when you’ve got time, a Brazilian photojournalist attached a video cam to his dslr to show him covering a protest/riot.
Harv.! @ June 18, 2013, 12:49 pm
Wow. Wow. Harv, that’s really cool!
Lynda @ June 18, 2013, 1:50 pm
Thats very interesting to see …… in a way so familiar……. but great to see the vid…….the working in protest crowds has a
familiarity to me………. I should rig up my 5D’s wth some hero web cams……. its great to have the video record of your day as well
as the pics :)))))))))))))))))))))
Jezblog London :))
XXX @ June 19, 2013, 7:49 am
I get the funny feeling you were saying the same thing I was when I watched that video?…”get in closer ! get in closer !” lol.
Harv.! @ June 19, 2013, 10:40 am
hehehe……… come on baby fill the frame bro…….. either get in closer or at least switch to a 35mm or something I have a
feeling he was shooting at 16mm half the time hehehe …….. still its easy to say that when we are watching from the safety
of our screens :))…….
I also liked the random stuff shot from the upside down dangling long lens camera too…. that had a
totally unconstructed looseness making it feel wild…….. hehehe ……. hats off to him bro he it there in his gas mask doing
the wild thing :)))))))
Jezblog London :))
XXX @ June 19, 2013, 11:08 am

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