Harrisburg, Ill. became the latest town to face the media spotlight that comes after near total devastation. An EF4 tornado struck Harrisburg in the early morning hours Feb. 29 changing the town forever. Six people died during those tragic few minutes and more than 100 were injured.
Local media were on the scene immediately. All three television stations in the area quickly dispatched reporters to the area.
KFVS 12 out of Cape Girardeau, Mo., WPSD 6 out of Paducah, Ky., and WSIL TV 3 out of Carterville, Ill., were among the first media to respond. It was television stations and radio that announced the coming storm and stayed with it, in WSIL TV 3’s case, all day. But other local media played their roles well also.
The Southern Illinoisan, a regional newspaper, reported updates on the web all day, including a first-person account by sports editor Les Winkeler. (story) The story quickly went national. CNN had reporters there and by evening, Winkeler found himself on national TV. His insights, as both a reporter and a survivor, provided authenticity to the ordeal. (Winkeler, Day 2 story)
On the website for the Daily Register, Harrisburg’s main newspaper, reporter Brain DeNeal interviewed Rick Shanklin, the meteorologist for the National Weather Service from Paducah, Ky. This interview provided depth and facts behind the storm, such as the speed, size and level of the tornado, (Story).
Television and print media quickly put up instructions on how to help, where to volunteer, warnings about what to avoid and information for those living in Harrisburg and also to those in the surrounding area.
Reporters at the Southern and television stations worked around the clock with little sleep to keep the public informed on the electrical situation, sanitary conditions and ways to help support the Harrisburg community with donations. (Story)
Within hours after Harrisburg was leveled by a storm, stories about human kindness and strength were hitting the airwaves. Stories of survival ruled the day. (CNN story)