Snowed In: Digging For A Story
Another day under mountains of snow in upstate New York. Nearly 12 feet in some places. That's enough to nearly cover homes, submerge swing sets and make finding the mailbox no easy task. Our challenge – after reporting the story for a few days – was to find a unique way to tell the story. How could we capture something that our viewers hadn't already heard?
At last, we had an idea. We would head to the tiny town of Redfield, New York, population 650, to see if it had broken a state record during the 10-day lake effect storm with 146 inches of snow. A National Weather Service representative, John Hitchkock, was headed to the area. Would he have a yard stick? How would he measure all the snow? We thought it would be a fabulous element for our story.
When we arrived though, we couldn't find Hitchkock. No one at the local store knew where he was, same story at the post office. But we got a tip from a long-time resident to check in with Carol Yerdon, the town's unofficial weather watcher.
We called Yerdon who said the National Weather Service was on the way to her house and off we went.
Yerdon is a 43-year-old mother and substitute teacher who answered a local ad 13 years ago to become the town's weather watcher. She takes the job very seriously, measuring snowfall every four to six hours, and recording snow totals, as well as temperature, and other highlights of the day, in her journals.
"Obviously we're quite busy in the winter. In the summer, nobody really talks to us," Yerdon told me in an interview.
With her trusty yardstick, she says she measured 146 inches in Redfield since last weekend – a state record she thought for one storm. She waited for the National Weather Service to see if her numbers might make history. We waited with her. So did crews from the New York Times and a local television station, and photographers with Syracuse newspapers. Suddenly, Carol Yerdon was a local celebrity.
After wrapping up all her interviews and waiting about two hours, Carol called the National Weather Service. She learned the agency would be holding a news conference in another town, where it would say that Redfield got 141 inches – not 146 – declaring that total a state high for a single event but not a record. Seems the National Weather Service doesn't keep records for multi-day events.
Yerdon wasn't disappointed. Neither were we. We found a terrific character for a story – someone our viewers hadn't met before.
Now we just had to get the story on the air – no easy task when there is no cell service in Redfield. Eventually, we realized we could get service a few miles out of town. Our intrepid photojournalist, Mark LaGanga, jumped on top of our rental car, held the computer up, and alas we were connected. Once I followed him to the top of the car (I hope my family isn't reading this!), our script was sent in for approval. (You can see the results by clicking the monitor at the top of this post on the left.)
And then it was on the air along with this final note – Carol Yerdon's hoping for more snow, as crazy as that might sound. And she just might get her wish. Another 12 to 18 inches is expected to fall in Redfield over the next two days.
Now we need to find another story…
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