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 'un-survivable 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 elsewhere.
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."
Cheers Jez XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX
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