NEW ORLEANS (KMOV.com) -- When I ate lunch on Monday, I was jokingly called "the hurricane virgin" by the locals. Well, consider the mystery gone.
We are 12 hours into Isaac's assault on the coast, and all of us out-of-towners are tourists no more. Those that traveled from St. Louis; Maggie Crane, myself and her photographer have been at it since mid-afternoon. We joined the hardworking crew at WWLTV and reinforcements from Houston, Dallas and San Antonio to cover Isaac on the air, web, social media and mobile devices.
By 7 p.m., it was clear we were in for quite a show. Since then, reporters have battled insane winds and sheets of rain to bring residents updates and status reports, keep an eye on levees and document Isaac's slow, steady offensive on the region.
In some cases, the weather proved too much for the trucks. Without a satellite to send the footage in, reporters turned to social media and cell phones. And this was all before midnight.
By 12:45 there was a flash flood warning. It was then that Isaac pulled another in a long line of unexpected moves: it became stationary. The hurricane was parking above us, prolonging the abuse of rain and wind, as residents watched the water levels rise.
There is only so much severe weather infrastructure can take, and with the storm stalling, lights started to go out. The outage list continued to grow- first 10,000, then 50,000, by 4 a.m. that number is at 135,000 and climbing. That's just the city of New Orleans. State-wide, the number is nearing 400,000.
Shortly after 1 a.m., the storm struck the first blow at the station. Mid-sentence in a tweet about power outages, the newsroom went dark. We all sat in silence for a moment, and I realized it was the first time in hours there wasn't a constant buzz of noise in my ears. The silence broke when one of WWLTV's web producers, Chad Bower yelled, "wait for it!." Within seconds, generators roared to life, and the lights flicked back on. The newsroom echoed the generators as work resumed.
Walking out to the garage where the trucks are kept, the sound was deafening. The generators mixed with whipping winds and rain made it impossible to hear your own voice.
I stuck my head out the door to feel what the conditions were like. After all, when would I ever be in a hurricane again? Gaining courage, I stepped outside. Within moments, I was struck by a sheet of rain with such force that I nearly toppled over. It was a stern warning from Isaac, and I heeded it immediately.
Back indoors, the work continued as photos and videos of the damage steadily poured in. As 4 AM approached, our replacements – most of them having slept in the station – awoke and gathered themselves for duty. Winds were gaining steam, approaching 70 mph in the city. Having seen footage from farther south of 100 mph and above, I can confidently say the number without power in New Orleans could reach a quarter million by dawn.
Perhaps the scariest thing about my first hurricane is not the power it has shown already. While it has ripped roofs from houses, torn trees from the earth, darkened the city and even sunk boats, the most frightening part of Isaac is the fact that the worst part of the storm – the strongest winds and hardest rain – hasn't even reached us yet.
Despite the awe-inspiring display of mother nature to this point, the lights flickering above my desk assure me that the worst is yet to come.