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Rather In The Eye Of The Storm

As Dan Rather prepares to end his 24-year tenure as anchor of CBS Evening News, he looks back at some of the stories he reported through the years.

"This is, by anybody's standards, a hell of a hurricane," CBS News Anchor Dan Rather said, while covering Hurricane Andrew on Aug. 24, 1992.

There was no other way to put it: Hurricane Andrew was a hell of a hurricane, a category five and the third largest ever to hit the United States.

"We've lost our homes," said one woman at the time. "We've lost everything."

"No one who was there will ever forget Andrew," says Rather. "As for me, I remember every hurricane I've ever covered."

It began in Galveston with Hurricane Carla in 1961.

Rather: "The wind doesn't get much worse than it is right here."

"Our graphics were a little unpolished, but that day we did something that had never been done before: put a live radar image of a hurricane on television," says Rather.

Rather: "This is a diagram roughly of the eye of the hurricane. Now there's a shot of our cameras on the radar and right there is the hurricane eye."

"It's hard to imagine today, as we routinely air not only radar but satellite images," says Rather. "But that day we agonized over whether showing our viewers what was going on would cause mass panic.

"Ultimately, up to a half a million people evacuated the coast and the storm's relatively low death toll, 46, confirmed that we'd made the right call."

"People respond to visual evidence a lot more than their vocal evidence, so when a big hurricane is approaching, if you can show that picture on TV, it prompts a much better action," says meteorologist Dr. Neil Frank, who's been a constant presence in CBS' hurricane coverage.

He knows first-hand the fascination and the danger of these storms.

Dan: "What's happening at the moment? Tell us what you think about it."

Frank: "Well you know, you and I go back a long time in the hurricane area. You see that swirling cloud mass down there - it is exciting to see that - but underneath that cloud mass is death and destruction."

The raw fury, the power of these monsters is truly awesome.

Rather: "This is what it looks like when wind is gusting 144 mph or above. It's hard to breathe, it's hard to see and, of course, it's hard to stand."

But it's the individual stories that stick with you. Take Hurricane Opal, which struck in October 1995.

Rather: "This is one of the most dangerous hurricanes in years, and it's hitting right here, right now, all along the Gulf Coast."

"The next day, I walked down what had been the main street, in what was left of Mexico Beach, Florida," says Rather.

Rather: "For example, look at this damage here. I don't see a single house that even looks like it could be rebuilt."

Nine years later, we tracked down former mayor Gary Gaddis.

"You knew it was bad when Dan showed up," says Gaddis. "I mean, Dan wouldn't be here unless it was one of the worst that there was."

CBS showed Gaddis his initial reaction to the devastation almost a decade earlier.

Gaddis: "I don't see it coming back in 25 years, not at this point. Not to where it was. The damage is unbelievable."

He was happy to report he was wrong.

"Within a year you wouldn't have a clue that something major happened," he says.

"Hurricanes have left their mark on land and on me," says Rather. "As my old friend, Neil Frank, finally found out what was up my sleeve."

Frank: "I'd like to see what you have on that cuff."

Rather: "I always like to remember how I got here and where I'm from. It's just for me. I put the international weather map sign for hurricane"

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