Go Behind-the-Scenes with WFSU during Hurricane Michael


When it comes to storm preparation, WFSU’s TV and Radio Departments do it a little differently than everyone else. While we do make sure we have food and water handy and try to make sure our homes and families secure, we have the added priority to get you the important information you need before, during, and after a storm. Hurricane Michael is a great example of how we work together as a team for you.

A map of hurricane with a man in lower right hand corner talkign about it.
Jeff Huffman with FPREN updates us on the storm track of Hurricane Michael.

This video at the top of this story was made after Hurricane Michael and before this summer’s hurricane season really got swinging. It gets into the details of what our various departments do to prepare for Hurricane season: the news stories our radio journalists report, the Florida Department of Emergency Management coverage our TV staff provide, the weather info through the Florida Public Radio Emergency Network, our Satellite facilities and so much more.

A man sitting at a desk in front of a computer in a darkened room.
WFSU’s Tom Flanigan hosting a news segment during Hurricane Michael. it was dark in the room, because the storm had knocked out power to the station and we were working off a generator.

However, some of my favorite parts in this video are things you probably won’t realize just by looking at it. They’re the moments when the people I work with do a great job even when conditions are not ideal. For example, that shot of Tom and Lynn sitting in the studio was not shadowed for atmospheric reasons but because we were on generator power at that point in our coverage. Half the building was dark, but they were doing a great job. And then there are the social media posts provided by WFSU’s Regan McCarthy about where she was sleeping during the storm and how she had set up her equipment to report from the Leon County Emergency Operations Center. I don’t think she ever actually slept on that air mattress during the hurricane. She was too busy. While other people get a day off from work, when a hurricane heads our way, we often go into overtime. It’s what we do and we do it well.

A desk with a computer  and microphones on a table with a quote that says
Regan McCarthy was embedded at the Leon County’s Emergency Operation Center during Hurricane Michael so she could provide updates as soon as the information was available.

As Executive Producer for Television, I usually focus on TV content. But during a storm, I go where I am needed, just like everyone else at the station. During Hurricane Michael last year, I slept on an inflatable mattress on my office floor and worked on stories for radio.

An inflatable bed with a sleeping bag.
My sleep area during Hurricane Michael. It was neat for about 30 seconds.

During Hurricane Dorian this summer, I worked shifts over at the Florida Department of Emergency management to cover the Governor’s press briefings. I wasn’t alone either. WFSU’s Ecology Producer, Rob Diaz de Villegas and WFSU Producer Mike Plummer worked shifts at FDEM as well. During Hurricane Michael, our Director of Content and Community Partnerships, Kim Kelling, bunked at the station too. She updated emergency information on our station’s social media accounts. We all tend to wear multiple hats on a daily basis at WFSU, but during a storm, we often add a few more. It is what we do and we do it well.

So the next time a storm comes our way, remember WFSU TV and Radio are still on the job. We’re working to have info over the air and online you need to keep you and your family safe.

It’s what we do and we do it well.

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Suzanne Smith

Suzanne Smith is Executive Producer for Television at WFSU Public Media. She oversees the production of local programs at WFSU, is host of WFSU Local Routes, and a regular content contributor.

Suzanne’s love for PBS began early with programs like Sesame Street and Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood and continues to this day. She earned a Bachelor of Journalism degree from the University of Missouri with minors in political science and history. She also received a Master of Arts in Mass Communication from the University of Florida.

Suzanne spent many years working in commercial news as Producer and Executive Producer in cities throughout the country before coming to WFSU in 2003. She is a past chair of the National Educational Telecommunications Association’s Content Peer Learning Community and a member of Public Media Women in Leadership organization.

In her free time, Suzanne enjoys spending time with family, reading, watching television, and exploring our community.