“There’s a story here about the importance of what we do, and the resiliency of the people that do it,” wrote Mark Klein, creative services director at KALB in Alexandria, Louisiana. “What’s been accomplished to broadcast life-saving information in Lake Charles and the other surrounding areas that were devastated by Laura is a testament to the strength of the individual stations, and how they’ve worked together under Gray to succeed against all obstacles.”
On Aug. 27, Hurricane Laura, a Category 4 hurricane, hit Cameron, La., south of Lake Charles, tying an 1856 hurricane as the strongest on record to make landfall in Louisiana, as measured by maximum sustained winds.
The storm caused the deaths of at least 42 people in the U.S. and inflicted an estimated $10 billion in damages.
Mark Klein, creative services director at KALB, Gray’s NBC/CBS/CW affiliates in Alexandria, La. (DMA 178), wrote to share how several Gray stations in Louisiana in covered it, and then moved to help its victims.
“It’s been odd having so many workers still not routinely working inside the office,” said Klein, “but when a massive hurricane with 150+ mph winds starts creeping towards the Louisiana coast at 18 mph, perspectives change quickly. Soon, those same remote workers were sheltering in place on air mattresses in whatever vacant corner of the TV station that they could find due to widespread power, water and connectivity outages in our state.”
At KPLC in Lake Charles, Gray’s NBC and CW affiliates, the transmission tower collapsed onto the empty studio, but thanks to a company-issued evacuation, no lives were lost. Most employees evacuated to WAFB, Gray’s CBS affiliate in Baton Rouge and KALB, with a few remaining in their homes in Lake Charles.
In the immediate days following the storm, KPLC was able to originate a studio feed from WAFB and send it to WMC, Gray’s NBC affiliate in Memphis. From there, the feed was sent back to KPLC and rebroadcast through WAFB’s satellite truck parked in Lake Charles.
WAFB took over the KPLC broadcast using WAFB’s newly-installed digital OTT studio located in its newsroom. As the storm made landfall in Louisiana, KPLC and WAFB combined its coverage overnight — broadcasting the same coverage on both stations, and on other regional Gray affiliates using talent from both WAFB and KPLC.
“There’s a story here,” said Klein, “about the importance of what we do, and the resiliency of the people that do it. What’s been accomplished to broadcast life-saving information in Lake Charles and the other surrounding areas that were devastated by Laura is a testament to the strength of the individual stations, and how they’ve worked together under Gray to succeed against all obstacles.”
The night of Laura, KALB broadcasted continuously until noon the next day.
In response to Hurricane Laura, regional Gray stations organized a food drive to help provide storm relief, with Hilton Howell, Gray’s chairman, approving a $50,000 donation to the Salvation Army to further support their Louisiana relief efforts following Hurricane Laura.
They partnered with a local grocery store, Rouse’s, and a local food company, Blue Runner Foods. For one day, at two locations, station employees, news, marketing and sales helped collect food.
Volunteers collected 97,662 pounds of food, water and household goods. Matching donations from Rouses and Blue Runner brought the grand total of collections to 194,792 pounds of food, water and household items.
A few hours after the storm’s landfall, Gray produced and distributed PSAs to all of the company’s markets, asking for monetary donations to support the victims of Hurricane Laura.
Gray stations in Louisiana organized Louisiana Recovers, a statewide blood drive to combat the desperate need in Louisiana following Hurricane Laura in the midst of a national blood shortage.
Gray Television is looking for an off-camera multimedia journalist in its Washington, DC bureau to find, research, and report on stories and events of interest to the local communities served by Gray’s stations. The position requires a self-starter who can and will work directly with station news directors to make national stories locally relevant and bring local issues to the national spotlight. This individual would primarily work in the field to gather content and deliver it back to Gray TV stations. Experience reporting political news from the U.S. Capitol or a statehouse is preferred. Working knowledge and interest in Capitol Hill, politics, and campaigns is a must. Click here for more specifics and how to apply.