Hovering And Lurching Over Storm-Torn Texas

You have to be prepared for just about anything when reporting a breaking story like a hurricane, but NPR's Carrie Kahn wasn't quite ready for a helicopter ride over Texas.

Copyright © 2008 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

SCOTT SIMON, Host:

You have to be prepared for just about anything when reporting a breaking story like a hurricane, but NPR's Carrie Kahn tells us in her Reporter's Notebook, she wasn't quite ready for a helicopter ride over Texas in the aftermath of Hurricane Ike.

CARRIE KAHN: I thought I was going on a short, 45-minute ride with the Coast Guard to survey damage along the Texas coast, but after arriving at Houston's Ellington Air Field, two other reporters and I were told that flight time would be four and a half hours and that we were headed offshore to inspect oil rigs and platforms in the Gulf.

Ever since I was a kid, I've been plagued by terrible motion sickness. I can't tell you how many family road trips I've ruined. But it's not everyday you get to fly in a huge Coast Guard J-Hawk helicopter. And immediately after I slammed into Galveston, it was impossible to report on damage in some of the harder hit areas. I really wanted to go. Then Coast Guard officer, Paul LaRouche(ph), launched into what he said was a safety briefing.

SIMON: I just want to go over the crash position for this seat.

KAHN: You said the crash position.

SIMON: Yes, I did. We're not going to crash, don't worry.

KAHN: I laughed along with him but my empty stomach was starting to churn. I walked over to the pilot and I said, I should tell you that I get air sick. He didn't laugh. In fact, he said in a rather stern way that if I were to get sick they would have to abort the mission. At that point, the two other reporters shot me dirty looks. I shrugged and said, no problem, I'd be fine. And at takeoff, I was.

(SOUNDBITE OF A HELICOPTER TAKING OFF)

KAHN: Even in flight, I was able to look out the open door and witness Ike's wrath, but as we took a sharp turn and left the shoreline, I knew I was in trouble. Within minutes we reached the first oil rig. To give inspectors on board a good view, the pilot circled the structure a few times, then turned straight into the wind and hovered. Needless to say, by the second rig, somewhere between the circling and the hovering, I was in a panic.

SIMON: Ike's devastating fury.

SIMON: NPR's Carrie Kahn.

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