Back in August, I got the honor of storm chasing Hurricane Isaac. My photographer and I were sent out the door bright and early Monday August 27th with no real end destination mapped out. Our news director simply told us to start heading west toward New Orleans. We made our first stop in Pensacola Beach, where folks were getting their homes ready. That night, we traveled on to Gulf Shores, Alabama. There, we spent the night in a high rise condo that had been closed to guests because of the impending storm. Being the only two people in a 10 story high rise was pretty scary! In the morning, we continued on to Gulfport, Mississippi. For the station, I was tasked with sending in blog updates to bring the latest information to our viewers. You can find that below. Start from the bottom and work your way up to go in chronological order. It was too amazing of an experience not to keep documented.
Along the way, I met the most amazing people. Heard the most amazing, inspiring and heartbreaking stories, and lived a week of my life I will never in a million years forget. THIS is exactly why I do what I do. And I love every minute of it.
August 31st, 9:00 a.m.
GULFPORT, Ms. – The sun is out in Gulfport! This is something everyone has been waiting for. The rain has finally stopped and the winds have tamed. Homeowners are emerging from their houses and surveying the damage.The gulf is calm as well. There is barely a wake and the beach has come back. Crews continue working to clear downed trees and power lines. And all the folks staying in the six area shelters have been able to return home.
August 30th, 9:20 a.m.
GULFPORT, Ms — Isaac clearly isn’t finished with Gulfport. We checked the radar this morning then stepped outside to see the rain had stopped.This was a huge deal considering it rained all day Wednesday. But the relief didn’t last long.
Just in time for our first liveshot of the morning, the drenching rains were back with a vengeance. Since, they have been coming and going.
Many homeowners have been bunkered down since late Tuesday evening. There still isn’t much traffic out on the roads. Fingers crossed the worst of it is over.
GULFPORT, Ms – It’s safe to say my storm chaser wardrobe is fading fast. Three pairs of jeans (out of four) are now down for the count. I’m trying to utilize my resources. My air conditioning unit in my hotel room has been converted into a dryer. (No, it isn’t really working.) But it’s worth a shot. Do you know how uncomfortable soggy jeans are?I got tipped off there’s a real dryer up on the fourth floor. I ventured up there, wet jeans in tow, during my brief lunch break today. Unfortunately, my source didn’t give me the exclusive on that. Not only was another fellow storm chaser already using it to dry his duds, it accepts only quarters. And of course, I am fresh out of cash.
I figured while it’s occupied I’d run down to the ATM and get cash out then ask the front desk for some change. Problem number two. Isaac’s wrath did a number on the machine. It’s out of commission.
So when you see me tonight…don’t worry if I’m getting wet. My pants are already water logged. But it sure as heck isn’t stopping me from bringing you the best coverage on the Gulf Coast.
GULFPORT, Ms – Tornado warnings continue plaguing our area. And we are pretty sure we witnessed one blow through. Needless to say, nothing is open tonight for dinner. Our amazing News Director knew we’d be in this bind. He sent us storm chasing with a survival kit.Along with tarps, first aid supplies and flashlights, we also got a tub filled with non perishable food. And that’s what’s cookin’ tonight. My meal of choice will be Teddy Grahams and Pop-tarts. I saw my photographer scurry off with some Doritos and a can of Chef Boyardee spaghetti and meatballs.
It’s just enough fuel to keep us going. There are certainly plenty more stories to tell out here. And Isaac isn’t through with us, either.
GULFPORT, Ms – Hands down the most incredible site we’ve witnessed in this storm just unfolded before our eyes.Remember that home we featured yesterday that was under construction with new hurricane standards? It had reinforced walls and hurricane straps and clips on the roof.
We watched as the entire structure blew apart. It now rests in a twisted mess…in the very spot a home was leveled during Hurricane Katrina.
It happened during the most intense surge we’ve experienced. As soon as it happened my photographer and I leapt though a single opened door in our news vehicle and literally hovered there for 30 seconds until it passed. It was terrifying. And devastating for the builder of that home. He talked with us again on camera tonight.
Hear his reaction on Action News at 10 and 11.
GULFPORT, Ms. — Power outages have been happening off and on in Gulfport. We just experienced the first at our hotel along the gulf in the worst possible way. My photographer Jerry and I were headed downstairs in the elevator to survey damage around town when the power went out and we were trapped.The outage only lasted about five minutes but it was pretty scary. As we finally walked out, another fellow storm chaser tried to get in to go upstairs. We quickly warned him it may be better to take the stairs.
GULFPORT, Ms — The Gulf waters and the road are becoming one and the same. The beach is completely swallowed up and the water is rushing quickly down Beach Boulevard. The road normally runs parallel to the sea, now it’s part of it.Driving is downright dangerous. We were forced to go back and find another route. We’re passing plenty of downed trees and limbs in our path.
We just spoke with a homeowner in town who says the aftermath is worse than he expected. But when I asked him how this stacks up to seven years ago, his exact words were, “Oh, get real!”
Like many others he just rebuilt his home after it was destroyed in Hurricane Katrina. Lucky for him so far, the interior is staying dry.
GULFPORT, Ms. — Remember that beach along the gulf? It has been completely swallowed by the mighty churning of the water. Waves are crashing hard and powerfully.News crews using our hotel as their home base are all taking cover and scrambling to get inside between liveshots. Anyone outside for longer than 30 seconds goes back indoors completely drenched.
There are still no cars on the roads and no people in sight at all. Everyone is hunkering down hoping the worst of Isaac passes quickly.
GULFPORT, Ms. — No reports of significant damage in Gulfport yet. Most homeowners and business owners took precautions and boarded up all their windows. Storm shutters are also a common sight. And sandbags line the buildings from Gulfport to Biloxi.Strong winds continue to blow and the rain is still falling. Hurricane Isaac is taking his time moving past the gulf coast.
Surprisingly no power outages along the gulf in our neck of the woods. But the storm is far from over.
GULFPORT, Ms — Isaac is taking its toll on businesses along the Gulf coast. Maintenance crews had to come to my hotel room this morning with a wet vac to suck up rainwater coming in through the window. Maintenance workers tell me it hasn’t been a huge problem at the hotel yet but they are expecting that to happen to more rooms on the Gulf side. I’m told all they can really do at this point is continue sucking it up, but it will likely be a continuous problem.Through my window I can tell the winds have not died down in the slightest. And a constant rain continues to fall. Our crew is ready to venture back out into the elements. Stay tuned for a live update from Gulfport on Action News at noon.
Kristen Sell — 9:25
The water in Gulfport, Mississppi is churning under the effects of Isaac. (Kristen Sell, 2012)
GULFPORT, Ms — The Gulf waters continue churning with mighty force. There aren’t any beachgoers this morning as the severe conditions move through. Most are abiding by the mandatory curfew in place.Businesses and homes all directly along the Gulf have windows boarded up and sandbags in front of the doors. Even the hotel where we are staying (headquarters to media crews from all across the region) has warned guests if evacuations are required they will be forced to kick everyone out. That hasn’t happened.
As for us, we are all soaked to the bone but honored every minute we are out in the thick of it helping keep the community safe and our viewers accurately informed.
Kristen Sell — 8:35
GULFPORT, Ms — The mandatory curfew in Gulfport Mississippi has been extended until 9:00 a.m. Central Time, as emergency crews continue working to keep the community protected.Folks at the Emergency Operations Center tell Action News the worst of Isaac may be yet to come so they want everyone staying home and off the roads. Several thoroughfares are suffering from significant flooding this morning.
Emergency Officials tell Action News the city is still battling back against 40 mile per hour sustained winds. They have received reports of a few power lines down and outages in the area.
Right now, 6 shelters are set up around Harrison County and Action News is told 700 people are using them.
There is a continuing threat of tornadoes as Hurricane Isaac continues passing through.
Kristen Sell — 7:35 a.m.
GULFPORT, MS — Conditions continue to intensify on the Gulf Coast as a strong storm surge moves through the area. Right now, a tornado warning is in effect until 6:45 central time. The winds are beyond strong and the rain is constantly pelting down. The gulf looks angry as the waves crash on shore about a football field away from where our Action News crew is positioned.
In the distance, the first home going up where Hurricane Katrina knocked several down stands fighting back against the conditions. Contractors there tell Action News they hope its stronger materials prove themselves in the storm.
According to officials with the emergency operations center, five shelters are set up throughout Harrison County for anyone who needs them. There have been some mandatory evacuations and a mandatory curfew remains in effect until 7:00 a.m.
There have been reports of heavy flooding but along the direct coast, we are seeing only some downed debris from nearby trees.