National Hurricane Center Deputy Director Ed Rappaport briefs a national… (Andy Newman / Associated…)
TAMPA, Fla. — Hurricane Isaac made land about 90 miles southeast of New Orleans on Tuesday before 7 p.m. local time, but CNN was the only one of three cable outlets to break away from the Republican National Convention here to present a substantial report on the emergency.
MSNBC and Fox News both stuck with their coverage of the political convention, a couple of hours before the night’s headline speakers, Ann Romney and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. A news ticker ran across the bottom of the screen at Fox with Isaac updates, but MSNBC (slogan “The place for politics”) went with a straight dose of politics.
CNN, third in the prime-time ratings, switched from the convention to Anderson Cooper in New Orleans as the storm struck the outer reaches of Louisiana. Cooper’s rain-soaked report stressed that the worst of the storm was still several hours from the city deluged by Hurricane Katrina almost seven years to the day earlier.
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The CNN report alternated between Cooper and in-studio weather reporter Chad Myers and Ed Lavandera, the network’s Dallas-based correspondent, who had been positioned on the barrier island of Grand Isle, a repeated hot spot for past hurricanes.
The winds got so heavy in a couple of reports right after landfall that Lavandera had trouble hearing when Cooper pitched the story to him. The reporter showed how the storm surge was already beginning to deluge one home, four blocks from the shore.
Some 100,000 people had lost power in Louisiana by 8:15 p.m. Eastern time (7:15 in the storm zone) Tuesday. Myers reported that the heaviest beating could continue until 3 or 4 a.m. , when the center of the storm would reach the mainland.
Republican convention planners had been concerned about the networks cutting away from their big party in Tampa during the one-hour of prime time, 10 to 11 p.m. Eastern time, that each had pledged to offer Tuesday through Thursday.
It remained to be seen whether ABC, NBC and CBS would stick with their plans for the one-hour prime-time broadcasts from the GOP convention, or feel compelled by events on the Gulf Coast to cut away. CNN’s Cooper committed the channel to stick with the storm “all night long,” though his producers aired his reports with heavy doses of Republican politicking in between.