What does it feel like to be in the eye of Category 4 hurricane? Hours and hours of relentless wind is how CNN Meteorologist Derek Van Dam described it.
Hurricane Ida hit the shores of Louisiana as a strong Category 4 hurricane early Sunday afternoon. A few short hours later, Van Dam, his Producer Kay Jones and Photojournalist Jonathan Schaer, found themselves in the eye of the storm as it slowly moved over their location in Houma, Louisiana.
“The eye wall, the strongest part of the storm went directly over us,” said Van Dam during a live CNN report. “It was a nightmare, it unfolded in front of our eyes. It was a relentless, never-ending fury of category 4 hurricane winds.”
The extreme winds beat down on the team’s location for hours.
“It was like taking winds from an EF3 tornado, 136 to 150 mph, over a large area for a long time,” said Van Dam.
The eye of the storm is normally thought of as a calmness in the midst of the storm, but that wasn’t the case this time, this crew didn’t get that small bit of respite.
Jones, a seasoned CNN producer who has covered many hurricanes for the network, said “by far, this is the strongest storm I’ve ever covered or been in.”
Jones hunkered down in her hotel – a heavily reinforced concrete structure that was built post-Hurricane Katrina and selected for its ability to withstand a powerful storm – but could still feel the building moving.
“My room was on the 3rd floor,” said Jones, “it was shaking off and on for hours.”
While the shaking did eventually stop, the forceful winds continued until around 10 p.m. CT.
In addition to the wind, there was also a lot of rain associated with the storm, but luckily for the team their wind-battered hotel escaped much of the flooding experienced in other parts of the state.
By 2 a.m. CT, the storm had cleared Houma leaving toppled trees and debris in its path. Despite having no electricity, the CNN team was back at it, live on the air relaying their harrowing experience inside the storm along with reports of damage all around them for the world to see.