Weather is the new war zone

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YOU WANT TO be a frontline reporter and there are no wars to hand? America has its surrogate: the weather, writes Mary Dejevsky in Miami.

Hurricanes and tornadoes are the new proving ground for the young and keen to be noticed. They don their waterproofs and get themselves to where the weather is (so long as the camera is there too).

Viewers, apparently, love it. The weather is increasingly where they have been getting their kicks - and Hurricane Georges was no exception.

From Fort Lauderdale to the north, through Miami Beach, through the corridor carved by Hurricane Andrew through Homestead and Florida City and on into the islands of the Keys, the US television networks had their reporters out there, one-on-one against the elements.

For southern Florida's Channel 7, Lynn Gordon was out, bending and weaving in 70mph winds, as the centre of Georges approached the town of Marathon in the Middle Keys. "What about those boats behind you on the trailers? Are they tied down?" asked the presenter, safe in the studio. "Boats, oh those boats. I'm sorry, I can't see, I think they're tied. I can't turn around easily, the wind's so strong," Lynn shouts into her mobile phone, half-bending to illustrate the problem: "Just look at me, I can barely stand here."

Her colleague, Brian Andrews, was in Duval Street, the main thoroughfare of Key West - at least he was almost on Duval Street. He was semi-sheltering under an arch of a hotel, technically observing the curfew.

A direct product of satellite transmission, the storm-chasing television reporter is now a staple of the US natural disaster. Recently, though, the daredevils have started to draw flak. Do their antics not encourage the more adventurous viewers to try something similar? So their reports are now dotted with warnings against imitation. As Georges approached, some of the yellow-clad chasers even scolded those out on the beach for their folly - a challenge not all took in good part.

For they knew what their accusers know: that - up to a point - it's exhilarating. "I'm determined to experience it full-out," said a girl called Kelly as she pranced on Miami Beach. "I draw energy from being out here," said a woman several decades her senior. And the media storm-chasers might well say the same.