Weather bomb warnings from the US

JANE CLIFTON
Last updated 05:00 31/10/2012
Sandy
A reporter does a live broadcast with the barely visible Statue of Liberty in the background of New York Harbour as Hurricane Sandy approaches the city.

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Television

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Where is King Kong when you need him?  The footage yesterday of the buckled crane hanging from the side of the Manhattan skyscraper was about the most suspenseful piece of melodrama you could see outside of a classic movie.

Confounding the sensational Wellington weather yesterday, the news channels' coverage made more than diverting viewing all day - if only to wonder how long it would be before one of the live-cross reporters standing in the path of the storm, while admonishing residents to evacuate, would actually be swept away.

The buildup to the record surge was most comprehensively covered by Fox but, by the time it hit, the other channels had carved out more live rolling coverage.  As one reporter said, the night hours of the storm-watch - morning in our time - were a frustrating ''hurry up and wait'' deal. 

The storm changed from tropical to cold on its way, but no forecaster was predicting it would be any less disastrous for the states in its path.  It started just looking like bad weather, but by late morning there was footage of flood waters rising and washing out river frontages, as the last few evacuation refusniks waded through the water clutching their belongings, finally convinced this was no time to be recalcitrant.

Spectacular surge footage featured a row of parking meters up to their necks in rushing water. Downtown Manhattan became Venice without the charm.

TV news channels come into their own at times like these, so it was possible to forgive CNN for having Wolf Blitzer point out portentously that he was reporting from the channel's ''Situation Room''.  This was a hell of a Situation. 

The tricky thing for news bosses was to judge when reporters in the field passed the point of usefulness, given the effect of gales and rushing water on the sound technology. CNN's Piers Morgan interviewed a reporter up to his thighs in surging water, where he had been for many hours.  Clearly, the United States lacks our Occupational Safety and Health culture.

Running in parallel with the coverage was commentary on the becalmed presidential campaign.  The race between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney is already too close for anyone's comfort. The weather crisis throws shrapnel into everyone's predictions. How will the candidates' inability to campaign in the key states affect either's chances?  Will the forced closures of governmental agencies delay the all-important new employment statistics, and will that hurt or help either of the candidates?  And while it's plain the weather will keep many voters away from the polls,  which territories will be hardest hit is utterly unpredictable.

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A succession of commentators picked over the portents, all now totally unreadable thanks to a storm with the misleadingly friendly name of Sandy.

- The Dominion Post

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