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Friday, August 25, 2017

Wayne Dolcefino recalls past hurricane coverage

From doing hurricane live shots while taking IV treatments, to smashing rental cars: Former KTRK abc13 reporter Wayne Dolcefino recalls past hurricane as the first Texas one hits he won't cover in 38 years

As Hurricane Harvey approaches approaches Texas, former KTRK abc13 investigative reporter sits at home watching The Weather Channel.

"It's the most I've missed TV since I left," Dolcefino told "It's a powerful looking storm, I feel bad for those in the path of it."

And Dolcefino isn't the only one feeling a since of loss tonight. I've seen social media comments from Houston television viewers in the last hours wishing they could see Wayne vs Harvey on TV.

Who else has hurricane TV coverage parody videos made about them?

"Clearly I have left my mark," he mused when talking about the video.

Harvey marks the first Texas storm in 38 years Dolcefino has not covered since leaving KTRK in 2012.

"I'm not waiting for my phone to ring for channel 13 to call me for help with their coverage," Dolcefino added. "Even though I'm still in a wheel chair after my accident, I thought about driving out to Rockport and doing a standup for Facebook."

On a phone call tonight before the storm hits, Dolcefino told me he remembers more about covering hurricanes than any other type of story he reported.

"It was a challenge, you want to be gutsy, but not stupid at the same time," Dolcefino recalled.

The reporter who has more EMMY awards on his shelf than the average person has books, said he was always apart of the TV crew that could be considered the suicide squad.

As long as the satellite truck and equipment came back, he said his bosses were happy.

"Covering a hurricane is not just about being on TV," Dolcefino says. "It is the experience with your crew, keeping the equipment safe, doing reports in 100 mph winds."

Dolcefino's first major hurricane coverage was not for TV, but radio when he was a cub reporter at 740 KTRH. Hurricane Allen was the first and strongest hurricane of the 1980 Atlantic hurricane season according to Wikipedia. Dolcefino covered it from South Texas and was forced to file his reports laying down in a knocked over phone booth.

In 1989's Hurricane Jerry, Dolcefino and crew went through multiple cameras - they all kept breaking.

During 2005's Hurricane Katrina, Dolcefino, who was ill at the time, did live shots while connected to an IV treatment. It was also during that storm when the 5'7" reporter waded into five feet of water to test if the crew's flooded truck could be driven.

Speaking of vehicles, a car Dolcefino and crew rented during 1992's Hurricane Andrew was almost smashed to pieces. After chasing the storm from Florida to Louisiana, the windshield was shattered and one door had to be tied down just to keep it closed.

Not all storms were as dramatic though.

Dolcefino fondly recalls times when he was posted in a location waiting for the big one to hit...except it never made it. His favorite locations for storm no-shows were nice hotels with great bars.

As for Harvey, Dolcefino feels like most of the Houston TV reporters aren't covering the areas that will take a direct hit.

And in a bigger picture realization, the longtime hurricane hunter says Houston TV is coming to the end of an era. He says we are past the point where stations retain journalists with decades of experience who have worked for one Houston television station.

"Probably 10 percent of the people on air now were here before 2008's Hurricane Ike," Dolcefino said. "There are very few people who have the expertise, and have been in town long enough, to know how to cover a hurricane."

He believes the erosion of institutional knowledge hurts coverage and wondered aloud if some of the newer reporters know the difference between Port O'Connor and Port Lavaca.

Dolcefino wanted to mention some of his crew that made his coverage so memorable. Specifically he mentioned satellite truck driver Leroy Adams who still works for channel 13 to this day. He also brought up photographers Kent Stallings, Kevin Greer and Noe Cadena.

Before we ended our conversation, Dolcefino remarked on how cool it was to go through the eye of a hurricane. The calm after and before the storm returned. The way the birds seek refuge inside the quiet space surrounded by so much fury.

"It sucks not being there, it really does, I'm not liking it."

Dolcefino now runs Dolcefino Consulting where he still conducts investigations and produces videos that are classic Wayne.

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