Millions of people across the country were fixated on The Weather Channel’s Hurricane Irma coverage when meteorologist Mike Bettes reported live from inside Irma’s intense eyewall. We asked Bettes to set the record straight about what that moment was like and what he wants to say to the people who were concerned for his safety.
First of all, how are you doing after your long and intense time covering Hurricane Irma?
I’m doing really well after being in Hurricane Irma. It was a wild experience.
Of every hurricane you’ve covered in the field, where does Irma rank in terms of severity?
As far as wind goes, Irma was tops. During my live reports from Naples, FL, the wind gusts were measured at 142mph. Irma nearly knocked me off my feet a few times.
The nation was captivated during your live broadcast from the eyewall of Irma. What does it feel like to be in those sort of conditions?
It’s hard to explain what it feels like being in a hurricane. It seems like for every step forward, the wind pushes you two steps back. There are times you almost have to crawl so you won’t get blown over. Every now and then there will be a really intense gust that you’re not expecting and it knocks the wind out of you. If it’s raining during the intense gusts, you have to close your eyes or wear eye protection because the raindrops feel like needles hitting your skin.
Had you ever done a live report from a hurricane’s eyewall before?
I was in the eye wall of Hurricane Ivan in 2004 in Pensacola, FL. That was a scary hurricane because it made landfall at night. I personally think nighttime hurricanes are the worst because you can’t see flying debris. Ivan also caused extreme storm surge along the beaches that wiped out a lot of homes and businesses.
What does it take to reach the point where you decide to take cover during a shot in extreme weather like that?
If the winds got so intense that I couldn’t stand anymore or if there was a lot of flying debris nearby, I would absolutely duck for cover.
What would you say to the people who were worried about your safety during your report?
I sincerely appreciate everyone’s concern for my safety during Hurricane Irma. Our crew was very strategic about our location and how we were going to protect ourselves and our equipment. Our goal was to broadcast during the height of the hurricane, and careful planning allowed us to do that, with no issues at all. The entire crew was unharmed. Maybe a little sore after battling the winds, but otherwise unscathed.
See Bettes’ coverage from inside the eyewall below.
If you’d like to help support the victims of Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma, consider bidding on Mike Bettes’ hurricane-worn boots in his eBay auction. All proceeds will go towards disaster relief.