Watch Jacksonville TV anchor's heartfelt plea for evacuation
JACKSONVILLE -- For four decades, the people of northeast Florida have watched Tom Wills deliver the news on WJXT-Channel 4, which is as dominant a local TV news operation as you'll find anywhere in the country.
So dominant, in fact, that the station remained the market leader even after parting ways with CBS and becoming an independent station. Local news is the core of the station's identity and it seems as if Wills has been there forever.
So on Thursday, as Hurricane Matthew stalked the Florida coast and thousands of Jacksonville beachfront residents stayed put, Wills decided he had had enough.
For two-and-a-half minutes, he begged, cajoled and demanded that the stubborn citizens of the city's barrier island beach communities evacuate from Atlantic Beach, Jacksonville Beach and Neptune Beach.
"I want to talk to you people for just a minute -- not as Tom the newsman," he began, with emotion evident in his delivery. "We've been together for 40 years, you and I. It's time to take precautions. It's time to protect yourself. This is not going to be like anything that we've ever seen before. Think of Katrina. Think of what Hugo did. Think of Baton Rouge. We're in for a terrible, terrible experience."
Then, clutching his phone on camera, he read verbatim from the latest advisory from the National Hurricane Center and concluded by saying: "If you're in one of those evacuation zones, go north. Go west. Get out of here."
You can watch Wills' impassioned plea here.