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Hurricane Dennis: Jon Klein Explains How CNN Created “Hurricane One”

sanchez1july10.jpg

CNN correspondent Rick Sanchez continues to report live from “Hurricane One,” a mobile satellite unit that is traversing the highways of Florida and Alabama.

This afternoon, he was driving west toward Pensacola when his team was stopped by a storm surge on Highway 98. Sanchez tasted the salt water: “The Gulf of Mexico has overtaken the land…This is now an impasable road.” An hour later, Sanchez was in Crestview, Florida, where a hotel roof had blown off.

Working alongside Sanchez are producer Michael Heard, photojournalist Stuart Clark and engineer Terrence Leake.

sanchez2july10.jpg“They’re displaying both phenomenal courage and outstanding journalism,” CNN/U.S. president Jon Klein told TVNewser today. “It’s admirable and it’s great TV.” The idea for Hurricane One was conceived only two days ago, Klein said.

One of the original Hummers is parked in the lobby of the CNN Center in Atlanta, and it occurred to someone — “I believe Nancy Lane, who’s our news director, and her husband, who is an engineer/technician,” Klein said — that the technology could be used along the Gulf Coast:

“They said hey, covering a hurricane is very much like covering a battlefield — fast-changing conditions, extreme danger, difficulty in getting specifically to where the story is — why don’t we use the same tools to cover the hurricane that we did in Iraq?”

That was on Friday.

“By Saturday, they had drafted a very willing Rick Sanchez,” Klein said. CNN’s field engineering staff spent the day retrofitting a rented SUV with a gyro-stabilizing unit. (Klein said the engineering team is “sort of like Q in James Bond.”)

You can watch Sanchez’s reports on CNN.com.

> “This must be gravy for Rick after being tazered, dunked in a car in a lake and the rest,” an e-mailer jokes…

> Update: 12:34am: “Wasn’t MSNBC the first to pioneer technology used in Iraq during Hurricane Coverage?,” an e-mailer asks. “Kerry Sanders in Pensacola Beach last summer for Ivan with the ‘Bloommobile,’ and Carl Quintanilla along the eastern seaboard during Hurricane Isabel in 2003. That said — whatever happened to that technology? Why wasn’t it sent out into the field again?”

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