“Harvey: The First 72 Hours”
August 25, 2017
We had no choice but to put all our Hurricane Harvey coverage at VictoriaAdvocate.com and on our newspaper Facebook and Twitter pages. A mandatory evacuation for the Category 4 storm meant no carriers and no printed edition.
When Harvey made landfall, the main news story was a collaborative effort of several reporters who detailed how “Crossroads residents watched helplessly as the worst storm in 56 years roared ashore.”
Most of our newsroom hunkered down in our 1940s building downtown and posted updates around the clock on all three platforms starting before Harvey hit Aug. 25. We used live video extensively, as you can see on our special 72-hour page.
We also had teams of reporter-photographer stationed with first responders in the counties immediately surrounding Victoria. Along with our downtown staff, they posted updates in real time before, during and after the hurricane hit. We caught a lucky break as cell service continued to work even after power went out throughout the region within hours of the storm striking.
We used small backup generators in our building to keep the website running, as we posted updates via a handful of laptops. The city also lost all water service, but we kept going with the bottled water we had stockpiled. A food truck owner who decided to ride out the storm in our building surprised our grateful staff with a platter full of hamburgers the day after the hurricane.
By then, we were confident we could keep publishing a digital edition of the paper every day until floodwaters receded and our carriers were able to return. The special editions are presented in our special reports pages, along with embeds of many of our real-time updates. At the bottom of each main story are links to the many related stories and lists we produced. Among the more important information we shared were lists of how to get and give help, lists of open and closed businesses, and corrections to fake news circulating on social media.
Our digital audience more than quadrupled, as you would expect, during this time, and readers showered us with praise for staying put to keep them informed. Our local TV and radio stations were knocked off the air, so our website was the only source for local storm news for about the first 72 hours.
By the end of the first week, we were staggered but proud of our efforts. Harvey was the biggest hurricane to hit our region of the Gulf of Mexico since Carla in 1961. The stories will be told for years to come, so we’re glad we set the tone for our coverage with the first 72 hours.
LINK to content online
Submitted by Chris Cobler.