“Folks. this is not a storm to mess with,” screamed Anderson Cooper into his microphone, as the hot air balloon he was broadcasting from was sucked once more into the reeling, unworldly violence of Hurricane Florence’s eyewall.
“Anderson?” Erin Burnett said, looking up from her desk in a studio in New York City. On screen, Cooper could be seen fighting for his life, hanging by his earpiece cord from the edge of a wicker basket while 175 km/h winds tore at his branded outerwear, messing his hair and threatening to send him spiralling into the churning ocean, thousands of feet below.
“Anderson? You … ah … appear to be having some technical difficulties,” Ms. Burnett said, looking off camera, clearly hoping an unseen producer would give her the sign to cut to a commercial – preferably selling umbrellas, or life insurance, or popcorn. But with ratings soaring by the second – presumably for the same reason NASCAR is America’s sport – Ms. Burnett stayed live, rattling off facts about the storm while Anderson clawed his way back into the basket, regained his feet, and was fortunate enough to again be spat back out into the eye of the powerful hurricane.
“As I was saying Erin,” Anderson continued coolly, while lashing himself to the remnants of the balloon’s basket. “This storm means business. Anyone who wilfully places themselves in the path of this monster is not only risking their own lives, but the lives of the rescuers who will have to brave extreme conditions to drag them to safety. Don’t be a hero folks. It’s just not worth it.”
Mr. Cooper then rattled off a number of reasons viewers might be tempted to leave the safety of shelter.
“You may run out of beer. Guys. You’ll just have to crack the wine. I’m sorry. Not worth it.”
“Your mom calls. She’s worried her roof is going to come off. Well. She probably should’ve paid for it to be done right the first time. Nothing you can do about that now. Stay inside.”
“OK,” Cooper said, while keeping a wary eye on the churning, grinding, death winds a few hundred meters from his lightweight airship. “I hear this one a lot: your dog needs to pee. Nope. Nope. Nope. Make them a latrine out of your wife’s Canada Goose jacket, or teach them to use the toilet. No trips to the backyard. C’mon guys. It’s a hurricane. I don’t know how much clearer we can make this.”
Interrupting from the studio at this point, Burnett said that she had a question.
“Anderson, a lot of people are tempted to get out there in the middle of the storm, and take pictures to post to social media. Maybe it’s to gain some notoriety, or be a bit of a badass – who knows whats going through their heads. What do you say to that?”
Cooper, frantically working the balloon’s burner to try to find a cross current to keep him away from the roiling eyewall, took a minute to respond. Finally, safe for another 30 seconds, he returned his focus to the camera.
“Absolutely not Erin! I really don’t know how much more simply I can put it. This storm will kill you. Everyone needs to stay as far away from it as possible.”