Preparing for Hurricane Florence when you are a photographer

How one wire photographer got ready for this slow moving storm.

Hurricane Florence flooding carolinas
Homes are surrounded by floodwaters from Hurricane Florence on September 17, 2018 in Conway, South Carolina. Many rivers in the Carolinas are approaching record flood stages and their levels will continue to rise through the week.Sean Rayford/Getty Images

Last Friday, Hurricane Florence made landfall in Wilmington, North Carolina and began its slow move inland, causing massive flooding through the region. In the days leading up to the storm's arrival, while everyday citizens were evacuating their homes or making the decision to shelter in place, photojournalists were plotting how they would cover the story.

Logan Cyrus, a freelancer based in Charlotte, North Carolina who often shoots for AFP, learned that he would be covering Florence on September 8. He started shooting on September 10, four days before the storm made landfall to document the preparations. His end date was ambiguous.

“You have so many variables to take into consideration when prepping for a natural disaster,” Cyrus said via email. “Other assignments you typically have an end date. With a natural disaster you could finish early or be out for weeks. Being ready for that is important.”

empty gas station
A gas station sits empty with its fuel pumps wrapped in caution tape in Jacksonville, North Carolina, on September 12, 2018 in advance of Hurricane Florence.Logan Cyrus/AFP/Getty Images

Some essential storm supplies are obvious: extra gas, food, water, and cash. But photojournalists have other needs: rain gear for themselves and their cameras, power banks for batteries and laptops, and a way to transmit images.

"90 percent of the time my workspace was my vehicle. My desk was pretty much my pelican case with my MacBook Air, and wifi hotspot," Cyrus says. "I go into it with the idea that there will be no power, no wifi, and no good place to file."

Cyrus says it helps to speak with other journalists when preparing to cover an assignment like this, everyone has a few tips that you may not have thought of.

boarding up house
Tom Thompson and Wil McComas work to board up a historic home in Swansboro, North Carolina on September 12, 2018 in advance of Hurricane Florence.Logan Cyrus/AFP/Getty Images

“Many times it’s the little creature comforts you may overlook while packing that make a big difference when you are stuck in a dark hotel room with no AC,” he says. “A good example is bringing a nice bottle of bourbon for sipping and sharing after a stressful day of shooting.”

The days can certainly be long. During his time covering the storm Cyrus was typically pulling 10-14 hours, often shooting in high winds and heavy rain, taking breaks from the elements to file images to his editor three to five times per day.

men in boats
Crew members and boat owners help to moor the 'Miss Janice,' a shrimp boat, to the dock at Mitchell Seafood on Wheeler Creek in Sneads Ferry, North Carolina on September 13, 2018 in advance of Hurricane Florence.Logan Cyrus/AFP/Getty Images

Staying hydrated, remembering to eat and getting as much rest as possible during those long days is also crucial.

“The last thing myself or any other journalist covering something like this wants is to become a burden on EMS,” says Cyrus.

man holding a candle in dark room
Richardson Tumulak brings a candle into and elderly couples room after the Sleep Inn hotel they were staying in lost power on September 13, 2018 during Hurricane Florence.Logan Cyrus/AFP/Getty Images

The locations you end up shooting in can also change in an instant during a storm like Florence—you have to be constantly monitoring road conditions to keep from getting stuck. Cyrus says he spent the bulk of his time photographing in Jacksonville, Swansboro, Sneads Ferry/Topsail Island, and New Bern, searching for images that showed the storm from a human perspective.

“The point of me being there is to show people who aren’t what's going on. Most of the time that looks like preparations, the actual storm hitting and aftermath,” he says. “Finding any sort of humanity in those situations is crucial.”

Florence was downgraded to a tropical depression on Sunday, but the storm has still dropped record-setting rainfall on the region, the risk of flash floods is still high and photojournalists are still out there making images that document the effects of this natural disaster.

Waves crash into the Second Avenue Pier
Waves crash into the Second Avenue Pier as Hurricane Florence makes landfall late on September 14, 2018 in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.Alex Edelman/AFP/Getty Images
flooded home after Hurricane Florence
Homes are flooded after a storm surge from Hurricane Florence flooded the Neuse River September 14, 2018 in New Bern, North Carolina.Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
home sitting in flood water
A home sits in flood water outside Maysville, North Carolina on September 14, 2018 during Hurricane Florence.Logan Cyrus/AFP/Getty Images
A worried mother holding baby
A woman holds a baby as she watches rising flood waters on the Cape Fear River during Hurricane Florence in Wilmington, North Carolina on September 14, 2018.Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP/Getty Images
man having coffee outside house
Johnny Caroll has his morning coffee as the winds from Hurricane Florence are felt on September 14, 2018 in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.Joe Raedle/Getty Images
National Guard 105th Military Police Battalion from Asheville search for evacuees
Members of the North Carolina National Guard 105th Military Police Battalion from Asheville search for evacuees during Hurricane Florence September 14, 2018 in Fairfield Harbour, North Carolina.Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
A woman and dog rescued from hurricane Florence
Rescue workers from Township No. 7 Fire Department and volunteers from the Civilian Crisis Response Team use a boat to rescue a woman and her dog from their flooded home during Hurricane Florence September 14, 2018 in James City, United States.Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
volunteers rescuing residents from flood
Volunteers from all over North Carolina help rescue residents and their pets from their flooded homes during Hurricane Florence September 14, 2018 in New Bern, North Carolina.Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
two people on roof of flooded vehicle
Two people sit on the roof of a vehicle trapped in floodwaters from Hurricane Florence on September 17, 2018 in Wallace, South Carolina.Sean Rayford/Getty Images
elderly man carrying wife through flood
Bob Richling carries Iris Darden as water from the Little River starts to seep into her home on September 17, 2018 in Spring Lake, North Carolina. Flood waters from the cresting rivers inundated the area after the passing of Hurricane Florence.Joe Raedle/Getty Images
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