October 24, 2005

Wilma pushes Miami stations off air

By Paul J. Gough

NEW YORK (Hollywood Reporter) - At least two Miami TV
stations were knocked off the air briefly by the
stronger-than-expected Hurricane Wilma, as the storm crossed
south Florida on Monday on its way back to the Atlantic Ocean.

WFOR-TV, a CBS owned-and-operated station in Miami, was
knocked off the air for several hours after the station lost
electricity along with millions of residents in the region. It
returned to the air at about 5:30 p.m. ET but only by using a
generator in the station's parking lot.

Another station, NBC-owned WTVJ-TV, lost its over-the-air
signal for about a half-hour but remained on via cable TV and
live streaming over the Internet throughout the time. A report
posted on the Miami Herald Web site said that Comcast was
working to restore cable service. As with Hurricane Katrina,
local stations and other media outlets used every available
outlet, including the Web, to get information to residents and
nonresidents alike.

It was a busy day for the cable news operations, which had
geared up for Hurricane Wilma during the weekend and provided
blow-by-blow coverage Monday morning as the hurricane made
landfall near Naples, Fla.

It was in sharp contrast to the broadcast networks' morning
shows, which covered the hurricane but didn't do wall-to-wall
coverage. "Today," for instance, found time to air several
numbers by Bette Midler live from outside Rockefeller Center,
including a duet with co-host Katie Couric. Of the Big Three
evening newscast anchors, only ABC's Bob Woodruff was on the
scene in Florida. Woodruff threw to Elizabeth Vargas, who was
anchoring the rest of "World News Tonight" in New York. Brian
Williams and Bob Schieffer anchored their newscasts from New

But even the cable channels, with the eighth hurricane to
hit Florida in two years and the fourth big hurricane to hit
the mainland U.S. since July, weren't all hurricanes, all the
time. Their attention was diverted during the day by terrorist
explosions in the heart of Baghdad, which was captured by video
cameras, and the president's live news conference to announce
the appointment of Ben S. Bernanke to succeed Federal Reserve
Bank chief Alan Greenspan.

Reuters/Hollywood Reporter