“Call him Hurricane Harrigan,” Tim Cuprisin declared 52 weeks ago. That nickname for Fox News correspondent Steve Harrigan was heard in the halls of FNC as Katrina washed ashore last August, first in Florida and then in Mississippi. Harrigan was on the scene for both landfalls.
In a recent interview, Harrigan’s trademark to-the-point demeanor was evident. His description of Katrina’s landfall in Florida? “It blew us around a bit.”
After that, Harrigan had a day to head home, “empty one bag and pack another.” Then he flew to Panama City and drove to Gulfport.
“Unbelievable” was the first word he used to describe the Gulf Coast landfall.
“It was like a scene in the Wizard of Oz where you see stuff that doesn’t ordinarily fly through the air, fly through the air,” he recalled.
Katrina was a storm in three acts: Small hurricane, huge storm, and the aftermath. In the first and second acts, Harrigan earned his “Hurricane” nickname.
He’s characteristically blunt about it: “The reporter stands out there and people like to see the reporter get blown around.”
He says there’s an adrenaline rush involved: “You’re just standing there, with a mic. It’s a very simple thing. You’re just trying to stand up and keep talking.”
At the height of the storm, for a few minutes, the hurricane correspondent “has control of the network,” Harrigan added. “No one is going to take you off the air at that point.”
But eventually there’s the third act, the aftermath. As Harrigan made his way to New Orleans, he saw a war zone unfold before his eyes.
“To see the aftermath — on the streets, with people waiting for help and not getting it — it felt like the Congo,” he said. “At one scene on a bridge, it felt sort of like a UN refugee camp in the Congo, but I think the UN did a better job in the Congo than what I saw.”
Vehicles would drive by and crowds of 20 or 30 people would scream for water. Harrigan said he was shocked to hear that in the United States — or anywhere on the planet for that matter.
“What made me sad was seeing people wait,” he recalled. He’d pass people one day, then return to a trailer that evening for dinner (peanut butter and jelly sandwich and a Gatorade). The next morning, the same individuals were still waiting for help.
When you see it, “you feel really sad,” he said. “You feel like it lends a certain sort of vehemence to your reporting. You really want to let people know.”
Harrigan is determined to cover all the acts of this year’s hurricanes, as well. He’s been thinking about adding a wetsuit to his hurricane gear, “because nothing else really keeps you dry.” He may add a bicycle helmet too, to wear off the air. Maybe he’ll even venture overseas for storms.
“I don’t know why we’re not doing typhoons,” he said, calling it a “relatively untapped” market.