Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Dispatch from hurricane-battered Palm Beach County

Old friends of mine currently working for the Palm Beach Post sent a dispatch last night from the wake of Hurricane Wilma. Their words follow to the end of this post:
Currently, we have no power and no water at our house. Officials say it could take as long as four weeks to restore power to everyone, though we are hopeful it will take far less than that.

As for the water ... All of the city's pump stations died, so they cannot pressurize the system, therefore no water through the taps at home. We will get bottled water until then from the grocery store down the street, which is on generator power. Shopping by generator is quite the experience. Cash only. They padlocked all the freezer units shut, and there is a line to use the one payphone (remember those?) outside the store. Oh yeah! We also have no phone service by our regular land line or by cell phone. Who knows when that will be restored. ...
When we're not back at the home cleaning up, we are here at the paper, busily trying to stay on top of things. ... We have a blog that we are using to handle all the openings and closings of anything in the paper's coverage area and then some. ... We also still have reporters out in the damage sending us feeds via e-mail that we post right away. For a while, we also offered a free video stream from our TV partner, but their roof caved in yesterday, and they have no idea when they will be back on the air.

To actually print the paper, we are running on a massive generator and a feeder line from the power company, which is basically a glorified extension cord. Unfortunately, it is only enough power to operate one press, so it takes four times as long to print an entire edition. Thanks to that, we are operating on early deadlines, pages must be done by 9 p.m., which is a huge jump up in terms of a deadline at any paper.

One cool thing to come from all the damage is that you can really see the stars at night. With no power to anything for miles, it looks really cool. We are running a constellation guide for those that want to know more about the stars.

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