Hurricane hysteria, Part 2: Now with weather!

Flooded streets! Collapsing cranes! Drenched, windswept reporters! And Sandy hasn't even made landfall yet

Published October 29, 2012 8:23PM (EDT)

Hurricane Sandy still hasn’t made landfall, but conditions are starting to get dramatic. The TV networks covering the hurricane (which is all of them: the Weather Channel, NY1, CNN, MSNBC, Fox, CNBC and the local CBS, NBC, ABC and Fox affiliates) have curtailed it a bit on the more time-wasting aspects of their coverage —  how the hurricane will affect the election, flights, etc. — to go as full-on alarmist as possible. There are a lot of reporters getting rained on right now.

1:50 p.m.: NY1 keeps requesting that viewers tweet about Sandy, which results in one of the anchors having to say, out loud, on air, the handle “@nerdfox.” (Who, incidentally, is really happy the gym on the Upper West Side is still open).

1:54 p.m.: On CNN, a perfectly dry Andrea Mitchell is sitting in front of a bank of computer screens showing a rainy White House, while communicating with a reporter on a flooded street in Rhode Island, where the sea is foaming so heavily it looks like snow.

2:03 p.m.: On the Weather Channel, they are using a nice vocabulary word: “This will all peak at a crescendo tonight with a high tide cycle!” an analyst says.

2:05 p.m.: CNN’s correspondent in Battery Park is “very fearful for my friends in the Jersey shore. Get out now because your time is running out.” The same guy says that the Hudson is going to flood about halfway up the railing in the Battery, but the guy on the Weather Channel says it may flood halfway up the lamppost. Who is right?

2:07 p.m.: Fox expects widespread power outages “not just for days, but weeks.” And “if you’re not already in your safe place, you’re in trouble already.”

2:10 p.m.: The MSNBC guy in Lewes, Dela., wins the wild-conditions reporting award: He's wading around in the middle of a flooded street.

2:12 p.m.: CNBC, which is typically dedicated to money talk, has a segment on insurance, and how major insurers deal with flood versus property damage. For some reason, the woman delivering this segment is doing it outdoors, in D.C., while being pummeled with rain.

2: 14 p.m.: The Weather Channel has a correspondent in West Virginia where it is snowing — a lot. “This is only going to get worse as this day goes on."

2:15 p.m.: The Weather Channel is also making official use of the word “extreme,” highlighting areas in for “extreme” flooding as opposed to "moderate." They are also better than the other networks at using contrasting colors in their charts.

2:18 p.m.: As a guy kayaks down the street in Montauk, N.Y., a CNN anchor asks an expert how a hurricane could get so “colossal” and “gigantic.”

2:40 p.m.: All the networks are going to the image of a collapsing crane on 57th Street, and taking the opportunity to talk about all the terrifying stuff that can come out of the sky.

3:00 p.m.: The Weather Channel anchor, out of Atlanta, calls Con Ed "coned" and says "unpresidentized."

3:25 p.m.: Take it away, CNN: "A lot of you are worried about the crane, we're worried about the crane." Shep Smith on Fox is talking about "other towering cranes all over the city … Hopefully they'll stay in the air and not crash to the ground." New York 4 is on the street. "If the wind comes down and does any more damage, that crane could fall east to west." "It could fall anywhere. At some point, you have to stay inside … you could be at the wrong place at the wrong time." NY1 has eyewitnesses who say the crane was not secured before it fell and, apparently, Pat Kiernan is sending drawings of what the crane should look like to his colleagues, who are now talking about jibs.

3:26 p.m.: The Weather Channel is ignoring the crane to tell you about food safety. "The clock starts ticking inside your refrigerator and freezer as soon as the power goes out."

3:29 p.m.: MSNBC is ignoring the crane to talk you about Ohio, which, maybe you heard, is important to the election. MSNBC is opting to air its political show "The Cycle" right now, with some images of the hurricane in the corner.

3:33 p.m.: NY1 explaining that to fix the crane, they would need another crane.

3:36 p.m.: Twitter is aflutter with news that another crane atop Freedom Tower is broken. It will probably take the news stations about 15 or so to catch up.

3:40 p.m: NY1 anchor asks if it's worse than they were expecting, seems like it is to her. The weatherman sets her straight: It's not "out-performing."

3:43 p.m. The guy in Point Pleasant, N.J., for the Weather Channel is still leaning into the wind, as he has been for the last four hours.

3:46 p.m.: Oh, NY1 has an expert saying that the 57th Street crane is not actually going to fall down. The anchor is skeptical: "When the winds pick up, at their peak, that crane should be able to hold bent over and backwards." "It should hold," and then says something unintelligible about how maybe that's not true if the crane swivels around.

3:50 p.m.: CNN has been really good about the big, huge wide-angle shot. Guy in Atlantic City now reporting from middle of the street, probably 40 yards from camera team. His mic sounds good, his pants look flimsy. "It's incredibly dangerous where you are," says the anchor.

By Willa Paskin

Willa Paskin is Salon's staff TV writer.

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East Coast Hurricane Hurricane Sandy New York City Rain Sandy Weather Weather Channel