TAMPA — With Hurricane Irma on a collision course with the Tampa Bay area, satellite trucks and top TV network talent took up positions along Tampa's Riverwalk Sunday.
For Mayor Bob Buckhorn, who has done something like three dozen interviews over the past few days, that means a lot of requests for live TV appearances.
Sunday morning, he set out with a police driver and a couple of staffers for an interview with NBC's Today Show. The destination, as far as anyone knew: The Tampa Convention Center.
En route, downtown was virtually deserted.
"This place is desolate," Buckhorn said from the front seat as the black SUV headed toward Amalie Arena.
So was the convention center. No NBC. So the SUV headed north, pausing in the parking lot of the CapTrust building.
"Al Roker has on a yellow jacket," city spokeswoman Ashley Bauman said from the back seat.
"There's a crew in there," Buckhorn said. "There's a yellow jacket. No, it's white guy."
So the SUV headed north, toward a satellite crew set up behind the Sheraton Tampa Riverwalk Hotel.
But that was CNN. A couple of crew members chatted up and shot selfies with Buckhorn, whose younger brother Burke is a CNN video journalist based in Washington, D.C. Buckhorn called out to Anderson Cooper, whom he met in 2000 when Cooper came to Tampa for a story on lap-dancing, when Buckhorn was on the City Council and was the scourge of Tampa's nude-dancing clubs.
That, Cooper told Buckhorn, was a story that informed his decision to leave ABC. He recalled asking himself, "What am I doing in a parking lot at 3 a.m. talking to lap-dancers?"
Buckhorn's group doubled back to the CapTrust building where they found Roker, in the promised yellow jacket, plus the other yellow-jacketed guy Buckhorn had seen earlier, plus NBC News anchor Lester Holt.
There, Buckhorn said storm surge was what worried him most.
"We're going to live through the rain, we're going to live through the wind," he said. "The surge will occur at the same point as the high tide ... on this river. So you're going to add to that surge level."
And sometimes, the visiting journalists ask not just for news but advice. As Buckhorn got ready to leave, Holt approached with a couple of questions on how likely the Riverwalk is to flood.
"Based on what you're telling me," Holt said, "I'm re-examining where we're at..."
Contact Richard Danielson at [email protected] or (813) 226-3403. Follow @Danielson_Times