By: DOROTHY GIOBBE
BERTHA KICKED AND sputtered her way up the eastern seaboard last week, but aside from delayed delivery in isolated areas and on offshore islands, newspapers for the most past took the storm in stride.
“We’ve had worse Nor’easters than this,” said Joseph Brown, metro-state circulation manager at the Norfolk Virginian-Pilot.
While overall delivery efforts went well, Brown said the newspaper had “some difficulty” on Friday and Saturday (July 12 and 13) getting newspapers to residents on Ocroke Island, off the mainland. About 235 copies go to the island every day via ferry, but dangerous conditions and an area evacuation thwarted delivery efforts until Sunday.
Likewise, at the Wilmington, N.C., Morning Star, delivery to beach areas was impaired because of downed power lines and trees, said John Lynch, publisher. As the debris was cleared, normal delivery resumed, he said.
The storm hit Wilmington on Friday, and, despite losing power for about nine hours, the Morning Star staff managed to publish an eight-page newspaper for Saturday, Lynch said. A normal-sized Saturday Morning Star runs about 50 pages, he said.
The Kinston, N.C., Free Press also lost power on Friday, but it had no effect, as the newspaper isn’t published on Saturday, said Tom Porter, publisher.
Kinston suffered downed trees and winds of 50 to 60 m.p.h., with gusts up to 80 m.p.h., but there was no damage to the Free Press building or delivery vehicles.
Even though some people didn’t get their newspapers, residents of Washington, N.C., didn’t make a fuss, said Daily News publisher Ashley Futrell Jr.
Newspaper carriers did “surprisingly well,” Futrell said, and were able, for the most part, to deliver the News’ full circulation. “I’m sure some people didn’t get the paper, but we didn’t get any complaints,” he said.
In Washington, a single death was attributed to Bertha, after a resident tried to start a backup generator while standing in water.
Some newspapers made a preemptive effort in anticipation of the storm. On Thursday night, about 2,500 extra copies of Friday’s edition of the Myrtle Beach, S.C., Sun News were taken to an emergency shelter in town, said Mike Pate, publisher. Delivery of about 15,000 copies of Friday’s newspaper was completed on Thursday night to racks and other single-copy outlets.
On Friday, the storm’s track was “too erratic,” Pate said, so home delivery ? about 30,000 newspapers ? was scrapped. A normal schedule resumed by Friday night, and the next day, both Friday and Saturday editions were delivered to homes.
The most storm activity seemingly took place earlier in the week on the Caribbean islands.
Monday afternoon on St. Thomas, the eye of the storm passed over, and “all hell broke loose” said Ron Dillman, general manager and CEO of the Virgin Island Daily News. “There was steel flying through the air, and so we made a decision not to publish” for Tuesday, Dillman said. “There was no way I was going to bring out reporters and other employees.”
Dillman said the staff put together a 52-page “Superpaper” on Wednesday that included Monday and Tuesday’s news along with full coverage of the storm. “We survived it pretty well,” he said. “I really thought we gave people a terrific perspective on what really happened and I was proud of it.”