10 Years Ago Today

Posted: April 16, 2008 in Uncategorized

Wow – it is hard to believe that ten years have passed since one of the scariest days of my life …

A tornado touched down – several actually – but one in particular literally hit the TV station where my husband was working at the time. Click here to Joe’s Blog to watch a clip.

God sure protected us all that day.

Tornadoes just don’t usually rip through downtown areas. I don’t understand the technical reason that is – but only know it happens rarely. On April 16, 1998 that big bad ball of wind made its way right down the center of town.

Joe was one of the main weather guys at NewsChannel 5 back then. He was literally the one operating the “sky cam” taking the pictures of that thing blowing through. You’ll note that if you watch the clip. When it hit the station, it blew them off the air. But only for a little while.

You see, some ingenious engineer-type suggested that they move the broadcast from damaged downtown up the the tower – about 15 minutes north of the city. Cameras would be able to plug right up to equipment at the tower, then boost the signal out to the homes.

Meanwhile, where was I. By myself.

Joe had called me earlier in the day. Station management had asked him to come to work early because “the storms, they were a-comin’ “. But storms had come through here in the past. I wasn’t too freaked out by his call suggesting I make my way home right away. When I asked if I should pick up our daughter at school, who was 10 at the time. Joe said “keep her at school, they know how to deal with protecting children during times like this.”

“Times like this.” What was he referring to? He knew that we had some bad stuff coming in. He just wanted me calm and to travel home safely.

While I waited it out at the house – did I mention I was BY MYSELF?? – I watched the sky begin to change. Dang. I truly “felt” that thing coming in from the west. I had absolutely no control over it. For a control freak like myself, this one would have to go directly into God’s hands.

Just after 3pm that day, the storm passed our house, just a few miles north of where I was. It became dark like night. It was VERY still. A horrible rain followed. Then a nasty fat, black fast-moving cloud came through. And it was done.

Done where I was. BUT …

The storm was headed east and straight for downtown. As I watched the TV station’s coverage of the storm, it became apparent to me that Joe and Ron (my two favorite weather guys) were showing that they were a bit nervous.

Joe was operating a camera, located on the roof of the tall Bellsouth tower. He had “remote controller” and able to operate the camera views from the studios at the TV station. The camera was directed west from the middle of town. It began to capture the impending storm.

What took a minute was the realization by the weather guys that the camera was actually shooting the storm, coming in from the west, that was about to HIT THE T.V. STATION!!!

And then it hit – literally, hit the TV studios, knocking the station right off the air.

I began to pray … okay, not right away because I was calling Joe’s cell phone, over and over and over and over. Then I started praying.

It would be almost three hours before I heard his voice. I remember that nothing but static showed up on the channel that once broadcast from the downtown TV station. Then, without warning, a picture popped up on the TV screen. It was a shot of the lead news anchor Chris Clark – he was holding a yellow legal pad and waving at the camera. There was no audio. I heard nothing.

BUT then Chris wrote something on the legal pad and showed it to the camera so we at home could read it. It said (paraphrased), “we will have sound soon”. Joe and Ron were both with Chris and they were safe.

For the rest of the night, literally, that’s where the news team broadcast from – LIVE from the TV station’s transmitter. Meanwhile, back at the station – there was a BIG mess to clean up. Downtown was a wreck. The tower was down. Newscasts would be broadcast from the cable company until the station could be up and running again.

But you know what, in all of that, only one person lost his life. It was so sad. A tree fell and crushed a man in Centennial Park. I felt so sad about the lost life. Yet, I was so thankful that the storm had not taken more lives.

Funny – it just doesn’t seem like 10 years have passed. If you tune into NewsChannel 5+, Cable Channel 50 from 7-8pm tonight, Joe will be part of an hour-long look back at that memorable day.

  1. pturner63 says:

    I remember the storm well and remember praying for all the folks at channel 5 when they took a direct hit. I knew Joe a little at the time through Dan Borsos who were your old neighbors. Hard to believe it has been 10 years. That was one scary day.

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