Getting Past Gordon p. 11

By: Dorothy Giobbe Florida newspapers take tropical storm Gordon in stride,
with few delivery or production problems reported sp.

AS TROPICAL STORM Gordon battered the state of Florida last month, newspapers along the east coast fought punishing winds, flooding and fallen power lines to meet deadlines and complete deliveries.
During a single 24-hour time period, Daytona Beach was pelted with more than 10 inches of rain, and approximately 100 streets were closed due to flooding. Tragedy struck the 98,711-circulation Daytona Beach News-Journal when one of its district managers, William Hess, suffered a fatal heart attack while helping to move a car out of the flood waters.
The News-Journal was forced to reroute carrier pickups when the flooding closed down two of its warehouses, where about 30,000 copies of the paper were held.
Of a 90,000 home delivery, all but about 4,000 copies of the News-Journal were delivered on Thursday (Nov. 17), said circulation director Rob Kearley, who added that "under the circumstances, it was quite good."
The paper's production was "terrific" and no advertising was lost, Kearley said.
In Fort Lauderdale, where estimates placed the peak rainfall at 15 inches during one 24-hour period, the Sun- Sentinel circulation department estimated that just 1,000 copies of the newspaper couldn't be delivered to subscribers' homes. Also, street vendors stayed inside, losing about 20,000 copies over the three days.
The Sun-Sentinel customer service lines logged 1,500 calls every day of the storm, mostly concerning wet newspapers, and Source Line, the newspaper's audiotex service, received a record 21,566 calls on Tuesday (Nov. 15) from customers seeking information about the storm and area school closings.
Gordon smashed into the southern end of Brevard County at around 7:30 Tuesday night, about 30 miles away from the offices of Florida Today in Melbourne. The storm turned into a tornado near Melbourne, devastating hundreds of mobile and free-standing homes.
Despite the flooding and high winds, Florida Today went to camera just 12 minutes late, said Melinda Meers, managing editor. The following day, about 20 reporters produced two full pages of storm coverage, and a six-page stand-alone storm section on Thursday.
Augie Fields, circulation manager for Florida Today, said that newsstand deliveries went smoothly. Papers also were taken to shelters where displaced residents were housed.
Home delivery was problematic, however. Approximately 2,500 households couldn't be reached, due to emergency road closings and flooding. By Friday (Nov. 18), the trucks could deliver to all but about 100 homes, Fields said.
Both Meers and Fields have experienced putting out newspapers during hurricanes, storms and floods, and, Meers said, "It's always a challenge."
In nearby Vero Beach, it had been raining for a few days before the storm hit. The Vero Beach Press-Journal was ready with hurricane contingency plans, which ultimately didn't have to be put into action.
"The biggest inconvenience was all the water not draining off," said Tom Dickens, circulation director.
The Press-Journal went to press about 30 minutes late on Wednesday morning, and other than in rural areas, distribution was "pretty normal," Dickens said. In fact, single-copy sales were up about 40% because of increased interest in the storm.
For those areas that couldn't be reached on Wednesday, both Wednesday and Thursday editions of the Press-Journal were delivered without incident on Thursday.
The storm also hit the Miami area on Tuesday, unleashing more rain in the area than in the past 45 years.
"It was pretty hairy," said Wayne Markham, circulation manager for the Miami Herald.
To prepare for the storm, the Herald staff met and agreed to push up press time by an hour to give carriers extra time for delivery.
Herald carriers arrived early for work and double-bagged about 90% of the newspapers, Markham said.
"Folks were in very high spirits. They brought in coffee and doughnuts and shared with the carriers," he said. "There was a feeling of camaraderie, because everyone understood this was a tough time," he added.
In many instances, the carriers were forced to park their trucks and wade through water to deliver to subscribers, Markham said. On average, the Herald has about 400 "wet bag" calls per day during periods of inclement weather, Markham said. On Wednesday, there were only 155 such complaints, a decrease that Markham attributed to the double-bagging effort.
And, while rising water threatened the Herald production plant, which sits right on Biscayne Bay, with flooding, the plant walls were never breached.
?(Rubadoux-Florida Today/Reuter) [Caption]
?(Tropical Storm Gordon wreaked havoc on Southern Florida, but newspapers reported few delivery or production problems) [Photo & Caption]
?( Tropical Storm Gordon was front-page news and spawned special sections in most Florida newspaper) [Photo & Caption]


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