Tornadoes and Thunderstorms Devastate the Midwest: How the Networks Are Covering the Events

6:59 PM PST 11/17/2013 by THR Staff
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Devastation from the tornado in Washington, Ill.

Weather Channel goes all out on coverage, while the cable news channels vary in their approach to reporting news of the storms on Sunday night.

Dozens of tornadoes and intense thunderstorms swept across the Midwest on Sunday, unleashing powerful winds that flattened entire neighborhoods, flipping over cars, uprooting trees and leaving at least six people dead.

Illinois took the brunt of the fury as the string of unusually powerful late-season tornadoes tore across the state, injuring dozens and even prompting officials at Chicago's Soldier Field to evacuate the stands and delay the Bears game.

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Hours after the storms first hit -- and while they were still moving across the Midwest -- the cable networks took different approaches to their coverage.

As would be expected, Weather Channel provided the most extensive coverage of the storms. The network interrupted its regular lineup, which included such series as Prospectors, to provide live coverage of the situation (and the devastation).

A tracker scrolling along the bottom of the screen gave updates of where severe storms likely were across several states, as well as the damage and a map of the U.S. highlighting where the storms were centered.

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The network also showed some overhead images of cities "before and after" the tornadoes struck to demonstrate the damage that was done to homes and buildings, along with amateur video of the tornadoes. Anchors also cited statistics about the storms, including that Illinois notched its first EF4-level storm ever in November, the most killer tornadoes in one day and the most tornado deaths in one day.

Fox News Channel also aired live coverage of the storms, including an in-depth look at the damage and a map showing the storm activity. Geraldo Rivera anchored the live coverage, which interrupted such programs as Hannity, and talked to Gayle Kaler, the mayor of Paducah, Ky., and emergency management personnel about the devastation across the Midwest. The network also gave statistics on the storms and the damage, including that more than 50 homes were destroyed in Brookport, Ill., and that one tornado that hit New Minden, Ill., had winds that reached up to 166 miles per hour.

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FNC also aired a report on whether climate change might be the cause of the tornadoes while also promoting upcoming nontornado-related stories, including an exclusive interview with embattled Toronto mayor Rob Ford and special coverage related to the 50th anniversary of President Kennedy's assassination.

Around 6 p.m. PT, CNN and MSNBC were sticking with their regularly scheduled programming of The Assassination of President Kennedy and To Catch a Predator, respectively. HLN also stuck with its scheduled broadcast of Forensic Files.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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