People hunkered down in Florida and tuning in to the local television news are seeing variations of the same theme: Exhausted but well-coiffed weather people describing the varied ways Hurricane Irma is pummeling their communities.
But for a moment early Sunday, the devastation seemed to break through one broadcaster’s professional demeanor as she reacted to predictions about the destructive — and probably deadly — storm surge.
Dani Beckstrom is a recent transplant from Idaho who has been with Fox 4 News in Fort Myers since May 2016. As Irma’s eye approached southwest Florida, detailed radar images were coming in, allowing Beckstrom and other forecasters to bring into sharp focus the hurricane’s effects.
To aid viewers, the station had put together a color-coded map depicting the anticipated storm surge — the wall of ocean water that would push into Florida’s coastal communities. Blue signified a foot of water; red signified more than nine feet, enough to submerge a single-story home.
Beckstrom was looking at a screen full of red.
“This is unbelievable,” she said. “As I’m saying this, I’m realizing what it means. Think of how many homes are south of Veterans Parkway in Cape Coral. So, so many.”
She pivoted to another area of the map.
“Those who live in the Northwest Cape — which there are a lot of developments in the Northwest Cape, a lot of new homes … we’re going to see that six-to-nine-foot storm surge in the general area in the Northwest Cape, which is gut-wrenching at this point.”
Beckstrom couldn’t be reached for comment on Sunday. Her news director, Eric Maze, said she was “in the middle of a 12-hour wall-to-wall coverage shift.”
But as she was working, her earlier words about Irma were zipping across the nation.
“It just breaks my heart,” she said in the broadcast, pointing to another all-red section of the map. “But we are looking at Sanibel being completely underwater as the storm surge moves … it’s going to push that wall of water over the entire island.”
She then offered simple advice for anyone trying to ride out the storm on the island: Seek high ground.
“If you in a one-story home on Sanibel, you’re still there, go to your neighbor’s house — quickly, I’m talking within the next hour — if they have a two-story home. Because we’re looking at nine feet, which would fill up the first floor of your home. You would no longer be safe.”