Reporters recount adventures during Winter Storm '09

The winter storm created quite a mess this week.  Here's a look at what some of the Heartland News reporters experienced in their own words.
By Lauren Keith - Friday, Jan. 30

Winter Storm '09...where do I start?  For once, I can tell you I did not ever have to report out in the elements this week.  FOR ONCE.  I'm ok with that---I've done my share of EARLY morning live shots, standing in hurricanes even, but I'm still shocked we were covered here with reporters and I didn't have to go out.  That said...boy, did I deal with the elements and can relate to those in homes without power.

After watching the forecast at 5pm Monday night, I decided to grab the last hotel room in Cape and stay the night before the storm hit.  Good thing I did, but...

Driving into the Breakfast Show at 3am Tuesday morning, I got stuck right outside the Holiday Inn Express!  William St. wasn't clear at all.  Finally, I put 'er in forward, reverse, forward...and made it down Broadway to the station.  I couldn't make it up any more hills, so I decided to park out front on Broadway.  Well, I knew I'd get plowed in, and sure enough, my car stayed there for the remainder of the week.

What's worse, my home in Scott County lost power Tuesday.  I didn't have a car...didn't have a home with heat....but the station did put me up in a hotel.  So, I'm glad I was at work to get my mind off the things going wrong personally.  I really can relate to any of you without power.  It's so frustrating.  Not knowing a timetable of when your power will go on is even worse.  I'm told it could be another WEEK for me!

But back to reporting...this week, I've been manning the computers from 7am to 9am answering questions 'live' and immediately for viewers in need of help, disaster assistance, road reports-you  name it---all on the KFVS12 blog.  I've also been helping write the Noon news.  We have so much information to get on, it's easy for producers to become overwhelmed.  I also edited video coming in from the photographers, so we could get this on air as soon as possible.  I interviewed Sen. Jason Crowell and Rep. Jo Ann Emerson today.  I asked them both when more "help" would get here from the state and national government.

So, it's been an action-packed week both professionally and personally.  I truly appreciate the nice comments from viewers, especially now that the "angry calls" are starting to come in from people who are understandably upset about their current situations.  Everybody, "Hang in there!"  I'm with you!

By Crystal Britt
Our storm coverage took us to western Kentucky today.  The route along the way was an absolute obstacle course.  We started in Cairo, Illinois where trees and power lines littered the entire town.  We continued southeast on US 60 where we stopped in Wickliffe, Kentucky and talked to folks there who don't have power and are surrounded by broken tree limbs.  We knew we would need something to eat or drink and feared no place would be open.  We did find a BP gas station in Kevill, Kentucky that was without power but was letting people in to buy snacks, drinks, etc. in the dark as long as they had cash. 
It took us forever to get to Paducah which was our main destination.  The road into town was cover with tree branches and power lines.  We stopped at one point as crews cut hanging tree limbs from the roadway.  First thing we noticed just ouside Paducah was a tractor supply store with a long line as a new shipment of generators just came in on a semi truck. You could see the sense of urgency. 
When we got into Paducah we noticed a lot of power outage concerns like no traffic lights.  We quickly learned there was a shortage of gasoline.  A BP gas station near the mall was closed but people continued to fill the parking lot near the pumps waiting patiently on just a rumor that the pumps might open sometime.  Folks couldn't leave because their tanks were on empty. 
In town, it was the same situation with trees down everywhere and sagging powerlines. Emergency shelters were filling with people and a lot of volunteers served food. 
In all, I was really surprised that everyone was in pretty good spirits.  One man told me he was simply going on survival mode. 
Our day ended at the Reidland Fire Station which served as the emergency management headquarters for the area.  I learned it might take five to 10 days to get the power back on for some folks int he area.  Communication is a huge concern as cell phone service has been very spotty.  People have been asked to stay in their homes and not leave until things improve.  It was overall a very eye opening experience and a very desparate situation, but one that everyone believed they would get through.
By CJ Cassidy

We started off today heading towards Kennett, but our assignment quickly changed when we realized downed power lines across the interstate prevented us from travelling so far South within a reasonable time period. We ended up in Lilbourn where more than one thousand three hundred people are without power tonight. Ameren UE crews say the ice storm snapped off or brought down close to two hundred power lines. So folks in Lilbourn, Parma and Risco can expect to be without power through Sunday and perhaps even longer. People say they are going to do the best they can - checking on each other, making pots of chili they can share with each other. If all else fails they say they plan on heading to a warming shelter to get through the winter storm.

The roof of the skating rink in Chaffee fell through due to the weather.  It happened at the Willow Grove Skating rink on Hwy. 77. No one was hurt.

By Holly Brantley

Sometimes the most interesting stories are the ones that don't make the air. Over the past year, Heartland News Photojournalist Rochelle Steffen and I have had quite a time traveling through our region. Usually, the weather provides for the most eventful trips. But Winter Storm '09 has been the most memorable for sure.

Monday evening, our truck broke down during our story in Sikeston and put us behind schedule. That meant we ended up on the roads just as the ice, snow, and sleet started to fall in southeast Missouri.

Fellow Photojournalist Brian Heisserer, had to pick the two of us up in Sikeston.  I'm happy to say Brian is a very good driver -- getting us back to Cape Girardeau safely, along with making necessary stops to cover the news along the way.  Rochelle supervised during that trip -- providing needed direction from the back seat from time to time.  I also chimed in as needed. (Naturally...us girls couldn't leave all the driving to Brian just because he was behind the wheel.)

We learned this winter it only takes seconds for travel to go from good to bad to worse. On Monday, the rain and sleet froze on our window as quickly as it fell. The trip took quite a while, and provided for a few interesting slick moments.  But, thanks to my trusty sidekicks, we made it home safely.

Then, Tuesday we had quite an experience, traveling from Cape Girardeau to Marion, Illinois.  This is when the storm really got interesting.  It took 45 minutes to make it from Cape to Ware that afternoon.  At times we didn't drive over 15 miles per hour.  And, the trip took double the normal amount of time.

We watched crew after crew shovel the ice and slush from the roads, as Mother Nature brought wave after wave of wintery precipitation.  We watched person after person drive a little too confidently through the mess on the roads, usually discovering they'd be sliding their way home...or into the ditch... if they didn't slow down.

On the way back down 146 toward Cape between 9:00 p.m. and 10:00 p.m., I'm fairly sure Rochelle and I were just about the only car on the road, which is good because we didn't see one accident.  But, those are probably some of most dangerous roads I've ever traveled.  I went to Norway during college.  Southern Illinois didn't look much different.

It's hard to predict what the weather will do.  It's hard to predict what conditions the roads will be in.  But, it's nice to always rely on a good partner in crime, in my case Rochelle, to get us there safely as we try to get you the information you need to keep your family safe.

We laugh about it later, dubbing the excursion 'The Adventures of Holly and Rochelle.'  It's one of the best parts about covering the news, there's never a dull moment and you never know what each day will bring.  Sometimes you even find a way to laugh even as your nose freezes, and your toes go numb.

That being said, stay safe during your adventures and travels as Winter Storm '09 wraps up.