It started during our Helping Hands Humane Society telethon. Severe storms fired up around Salina and, as we were wrapping up, a tornado was hitting the area. We wrapped up the telethon and returned to the newsroom to learn of the tragedy in Iowa - a tornado hit a Boy Scout camp, killing four young men. Bad enough - but our night was just getting started. We went right from a severe weather update right into the news segment just after ten. We made it through the news, got by the regular forecast and tossed to the commercial break. So far, so good. In the middle of Wednesday's Child, it started getting worse - a tornado on the ground headed for Chapman. And so began three-and-a-half hours of continuous coverage as the storm marched across northeast Kansas. With the storm headed toward Junction City, Ft. Riley and Manhattan, Jeremy said we'd be on at least a half hour to 45 minutes. The rest of the news was gone - and suddenly, the innocent live news chat that had only a few people jumped to a hundred. Jeremy and Drew were busy tracking the storm, so I moved to the newsroom to handle the live chat. I'm not a meteorologist, but I did my best trying to answer the questions of the more than 900 people who logged on to find out where the storm was headed and, once it moved through, share storm reports. Meantime, a technical problem took out our regular closed captioning system, so our producer Amanda took action transcribing from the air for our hearing impaired viewers - and continued until we went off the air at 1:30 am! Brian Dorman and Rae Chelle Davis went home from the Helping Hands telethon long enough to change before they came in - making calls to and receiving calls from emergency management and law enforcement agencies, finding out how much damage was done. I heard Rob Peppers voice on the air - he'd come in to assist. Before long, Manhattan was taking a direct hit. Adam Runyan was called in and, once it was clear they wouldn't drive straight into the dangerous storm on the highway, he and Brian Quick were dispatched to Manhattan. New Director Jon Janes came in. He and the news director from our sister station KAKE in Wichita planned for the KAKE crew to head to Wichita. More damage reports coming in from Manhattan. Jon dispatched a second crew, Rick Felsburg and Brian Dorman. Lindsay Shively and our morning producer, Traci, both arrived around midnight. More phone calls, more emails, more live chatters giving us direction from their communications with loved ones in Manhattan. We started confirming the major damage areas in Manhattan, and I plotted them on our mapping program. Our satellite truck operator, Elmer, hit the road to prepare for morning live shots. Rae Chelle was sent home - she and photog Doug Brown would be in early to relieve the overnight crews and get daytime pictures and reaction. Wait - are those the Shawnee County sirens sounding? The warnings aren't ending! And the most ironic storm report of the night - K-State's Wind Erosion Lab was "eroded" by the storm. Finally falling apart, the warnings wound down just after 1 am and we went off the air around 1:30am. The next few hours would reveal the sad news that the Kansas storms claimed two lives. Daylight would uncover the full extent of the damage. And we'll all be back at it today to show you the scene and keep you alerted to a new round of storms predicted to crop up. Our thoughts with all of you coping with damage - and our thanks to those we've already heard are lending a hand to neighbors and strangers alike.
Read More Blogs