Thursday, August 20, 2015

First Person: Water Main Break

I walked in the office at 2:30 AM Tuesday.  Photographer Jason was already out on the road.  Producer Thomas told me he was at a water main break in Kingston, and it appeared to be a large one.

As is customary in situations like this, affected customers call the TV station rather than the water company.  We're happy to pass along what we know.  Water company customer service can be a difficult place to turn in the middle of the night.  Our calls were coming in from a wide area.  Plus, photographer Jason said there was a massive flow gushing out of West Walnut and Mercer.  The indications were all there.  This was big.

Jason returned to the station.  I looked at his video and listened to an interview he conducted at the scene.  After writing a couple of stories, photographer Corey and I jumped in a live truck and drove out to Kingston.  The water was flowing.  We were still hearing reports that the broken main beneath the street, which had yet to be exposed, was big.  A Kingston police officer dropped by the truck to tell us what he heard and knew.  There were problems across the river, in Wilkes-Barre.  We were still getting low pressure, cloudy water, no water reports from a wide area.

A side note:  in this day and age, you have to be very careful with anecdotal evidence.  You're never sure what is first hand information, and what is rumor spreading via Facebook and Twitter.  Unless I get it confirmed from two independent sources, or a water company official, it doesn't go on the air.  Lindsey, our assignment editor worked the phones-- getting information and handling rumor control.  Our Wyoming Valley Newsroom crew also started working their sources very early.

The water company spokesperson must have been roused from bed, because the information started flowing early and fast.  10 live reports during Newswatch 16 This Morning flew by, followed by four more during Good Morning America.  A big part of the west side of the Wyoming Valley was without water, and there was the potential for an outage lasting days rather than hours.  The Luzerne County Jail, in Wilkes-Barre was without water.  The Luzerne County Courthouse closed.
After 9 AM, Corey and I set out to take a wider look at the impact of a waterless 90 degree day-- a mom and pop luncheonette, the fire department, the high rise for the the elderly...

Corey and I worked the west side of the valley.  Matt Petrillo and photographer Mike took the east side.  Team coverage at noon.  A huge hunk of time was devoted to the story.  It was necessary.  Thousands of people were without water on one of the hottest days of summer.  I came back with a recap just before Newswatch 16 at Noon came to end.

My day was done.  The table had been set.  The rest of the crew took over for the afternoon, evening, next morning, and next day.

I was lucky.  I got to go home to a house with all the utilities.  It was a very tough day for people in the affected area.