Ace Reporter Al Sullivan: The Challenges of Hurricane Sandy
Sometimes a news breaking story gets heard, but a reporter might get overlooked for his tireless work and dedication. Hurricane Sandy has been the uninvited superstar du jour, but a New Jersey journalist has worked his way through the storm without power, water, or heat at his office and home. New Jersey was hardest hit by Mother Nature. It is also my home.
Al Sullivan, aka Sully, covers the Bayonne beat for the Hudson Reporter newspaper chain. The Jersey City resident was diligent in prepping for the storm, but there was only so much advance work he could do.
His editors were stranded in various cities. Cell phone usage was iffy at best. “I had two portable computers I charged ahead of the storm. I hand wrote the stories and typed them later to save power.” He used one computer to download photos to a thumb drive.
While the Passaic native’s cell phone was charging in his car, Sully made calls. “But, I had to conserve because gasoline was in short supply.”
His Hoboken office lost power and he had to help carry equipment out after begging sheriffs who limited people who entered the city. And that was after he walked miles from Jersey City in horrific weather because traffic was backed up.
Somehow, makeshift newspaper operations were set up in a maternity ward in Palisades Hospital in North Bergen. “I was able to recharge my phone, my mp3 recorder, and one of my portable computers.”
Commuting from the temporary office in the hospital to his home was a challenge because of limited gas, plus the obligation of picking up a colleague in another area, which police had closed to traffic because there were no power/lights. Sully found a way.
Eventually, the paper got completed, was sent electronically to the printer, and posted online. “The paper delivery was tricky. Many guys used shopping carts going block to block to those streets not flooded.”
His major challenge: lack of power. “I lost the internet when I lost power and could not get to a hot spot to send anything. At one point, I was typing into my laptop, while reading my notes by candlelight, a strange mix of futuristic devises and past technology.” He still has dripped wax on his PC!
Bayonne City Hall was operating on generator power, but most of the city was dark. Many residents were living in temporary shelters. Bayonne is a Peninsula, sheltered by water on three sides. (I have many wonderful memories growing up there, as my father, Barry Facter, dedicated his life work as a journalist in the same city. Not too long ago, I returned to live and assist my mother in her later years.)
Reporting is just one of the many hats that Sully wears. He is an author of Everyday People: Profiles from the Garden State. He is also a poet, songwriter, fiction writer, videographer, and photographer.
Tragically, a Nor’easter was expected to follow the hurricane this week. Looks like sleep is not in Sully’s near future.
Sue Facter owns a news agency that specializes in the luxury brand. Her works appears in USA Today, Los Angeles Times, Women’s Day Australia, on broadcasts and the web.