Saturday, November 20, 2010

Ode to Big Red

It was a classic end to one heck of a week.  We were working as hard as we could to score some ratings successes as we enter the last few days of sweeps.  The final push involved some major weather coverage as the first big snow maker is pushing down from the north over the Sacramento area and dumping a lot of snow in the Sierras.

What you see here is Big Red, our massive, outdated, satellite truck.  It was up at the Boreal Resort at 6 p.m. for a live shot and the snow was just beginning to fall.  The decision that I faced was where to send the truck next to make sure we didn't get into a situation where driving this monster was impossible.

My initial thought was to drive to Colfax.  It sits at about 2251 feet of elevation and would be just on the edge of the rain/snow line.  The idea was to cover travelers who were trying to beat the storm before I-80 was shutdown.  Sometime after my reporter headed out the door to head to Colfax to meet up with the sat truck it was suggested to me that Nyack would be a better spot.  I'm not going to name the individual (who probably should have known better) but boy, what a difference 18 miles can make.

The altitude of Nyack is about 3000 feet higher and that makes a hell of a difference when it comes to snow.  Add to that Tom Wagner, our truck operation, called me at about 8 p.m. telling me he couldn't get the chains to drop on the truck.  I asked him how the weather was and he said it was fine.  I asked him if he was okay staying and he said sure.

Then my intrepid reporter Will Frampton called at about 9 p.m. telling me that the drive had gotten a lot more difficult.  It took him about an hour to make the last 18 miles because Cal Trans was making drivers put chains on their vehicles.  He suggested that leaving Big Red in Nyack for the weekend might be a wise decision.  I took his suggestion under advisement.  I love Will but he is extremely cautious and it's difficult to gauge which sometimes causes me to take a his concerns with a grain of salt.

Will made it to Big Red at 10 p.m.  The live shot was stellar.  I was shocked by the amount of snow that had accumulated since I had talked to Tom at 8 p.m.  It was snowing about an inch an hour so a good three inches on the ground.  I had been checking the Cal Trans cameras and could see traffic was moving on I-80, albeit, slowly.  Surely I thought to myself as I watched the live shot, Tom will call if he feels that driving this behemoth back would be a problem.  I figured parking it for the weekend at the Shell Station was an option rather than risk the run back to Sacramento.

The live shot came and went, one of Will's best efforts since I've been here and a fine effort by Tom.  They even did a shot for KGO in San Francisco.  The rest of the newscast wasn't what it should have and could have been given some technical issues and manpower issues but it went off with little on air problems.

Then just as I was preparing to head home at 11:45 p.m. and end a massive 12 hour day my phone rang.  It was Will.  Big Red had slid off I-80 and was hopelessly stuck.  I can't begin to describe how upset and hurt I felt.  Tom was fine, the truck was fine, but that Big Red beast was stuck on I-80.  It was a fitting ending to a rough and tumble week.  I'm going to bed grateful that Tom is all right and praying that his journey home is uneventful the rest of the night.  At the very least, I owe him a bottle of scotch.
Postscript:  Tom is fine and in good spirits and so is Big Red!

1 comment:

  1. Remember that old production RV we had at 6? Ron B. and I were following it back from Carbondale after President Clinton's visit there when up ahead in the dark was what looked like a big flaming vehicle. Ron said, "What if it's our RV?" I said, "Let it burn!"

    Enjoyed the post. It reminded me of all the things I loved and hated about live news.