What it’s like to cover a superstorm

AP Photo/Matt Slocum

More than a week ago, my meteorologist colleagues at The Weather Channel spotted something brewing, and we began preparing for the worst.

Actually, it started about three weeks ago — the specialists started to see favorable conditions for tropical development in the Gulf of Mexico. Since we were getting to the back end of hurricane season, I figured that meant something like a small tropical storm would spin up, at worst.

I didn’t know we’d be talking about the Northeast’s Storm of the Century.

When I last wrote about Hurricane, or Superstorm, Sandy, it was simply a twinkle in a computer model’s eye. As it turns out, the computer model that predicted it to grow into a historic storm and take a left turn into New Jersey was absolutely correct. In fact, it’s one of the best performances ever by a computer model, considering how far out it correctly predicted nearly the identical storm we saw in reality.

(MORE: How the forecasters got it right on Sandy)

Having seen the possibility of a storm for the record books, we began ramping up our coverage of Sandy a week ago, before it even became a hurricane to the south of Jamaica. As it pushed north, hitting Florida over the weekend and then moving up the coast to position itself off the coast of New Jersey on Monday, the work days got longer and more intense. I was blessed to get a day off on Sunday, which gave me a chance to prepare for the long week ahead (my weekend is typically Sunday and Monday, so I got half of that before I had to hit the ground running).

Working for The Weather Channel during massive weather events is a deluge of information, as you’d expect. My desk for the week was adjacent to our news desk, which was packed with people making phone calls to set up live interviews, pulling information into our newsroom about the storm and its effects, and communicating with our meteorologists in the field to give them the latest instructions.

The weather.com team was working 11-hour shifts, Monday through Wednesday, in order to maximize our coverage of the storm. Have you ever sat in front of your computer at work for 11 hours? Your vision gets a little blurry around Hour 10. But I’m not going to complain, because there are millions of people in the Northeast who would gladly switch places with me.

Sandy was the storm even more perfect than The Perfect Storm — a phenomenon that has interested me for years. I’ve always wondered what it was like to cover that freakish storm. I highly doubt forecasters thought we’d ever see another Perfect Storm, but that’s exactly what Sandy was — a worst-case scenario that impacted so many people caught in the middle of the chaos.

In the wake of Superstorm Sandy, the devastation is real, and it is massive. I’ve been through the tornado outbreak of April 27, 2011, the Joplin tornado and Hurricanes Irene and Isaac, yet it still gets to me when I see pictures of a family standing on top of the charred remains of their home in Queens, after a fire destroyed their house and the 100 dwellings around them.

It frightens me to see a subway system flooded and unusable when millions of people rely on it to get to their jobs and families.

And when the Jersey Shore was wiped out, it was painful to see the look in my colleagues’ eyes who spent childhood summers making memories on those piers and riding those rides that were suddenly in the ocean.

There’s always a connection to these weather events, even though I’m usually hundreds of miles away. I’ll be happy to get a good night’s sleep soon, and my thoughts are certainly with the victims of Superstorm Sandy, who might not sleep in their own bed for weeks or even months.

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