Nets keep close eye on hurricane

Huge Dean forces crews to cross countries for coverage

A strengthening Hurricane Dean headed south away from Texas as TV journalists got themselves into position in Mexico, where the storm was likely to make landfall.

During the weekend, cable and network news covered the big storm — which became a Category 5 on Monday — as it passed near Jamaica and other Caribbean islands. Network news correspondents and crews were moved late last week and during the weekend to be in place for wherever the storm ended up.

"We had to put people out from Corpus Christi (Texas) all the way down to Cancun and Jamaica," said David Verdi, vp worldwide newsgathering at NBC News. "This is a pretty widespread hurricane, and the geography is such (that) it takes four teams spread out over 1,000 miles."

Verdi and his counterparts spent a lot of time during the weekend tracking the storm, consulting with meteorologists and moving correspondents across several countries.

"We had a good head start," ABC News foreign editor Chuck Lustig said.

ABC News was able to place its crew into Kingston, Jamaica, which turned out to be better than Montego Bay in terms of access to the storm. Lustig said ABC's crews have been able to move freely in Jamaica and Mexico, which he said were pretty journalistically friendly. Because of the early warning, the network was able to send its satellite truck from Mexico City to Cancun.

"We've been able — knock wood — to have a game plan and follow it," Lustig said.

NBC News stationed Lee Cowan in Corpus Christi and Kerry Sanders and Mike Boettcher originally in Cancun with a crew from sister network Telemundo. But then the storm moved farther south.

"They're traveling about 120 miles south, chasing the storm," Verdi said.

CBS' "The Early Show" weatherman Dave Price will stay in Cancun to report the storm's impact there. Bianca Solorazo is moving south with the storm, as the NBC News crew is doing, and Jeff Glor left Virginia Tech on Monday headed for Corpus Christi.

While Hurricane Dean on Monday looked as if it would spare Texas and the rest of the Gulf Coast, NBC's Verdi said it was still a huge storm that would make it a big story for Mexico. And if Mexico's oil industry is damaged, it could become a big, expensive deal at the U.S. gas pumps, Verdi said.