Professional storm chaser Jeff Piotrowski had social media users watching with bated breath as they followed his Hurricane Harvey live broadcast from Rockport, Texas.
More than 1 million viewers on Periscope watched Piotrowski as the eyewall of the storm came ashore. And many of them worried anxiously for his safety.
Hurricane Harvey made landfall Friday night on the Gulf coast of Texas as a powerful Category 4 storm, exceeding forecasters’ predictions. But even wind gusts that reached 149 miles per hour did little to deter Piotrowski, who won an Emmy in 1994 for his coverage of a tornado in Gainesville, Texas.
Piotrowski’s journey into the hurricane was filled with peril.
“We hit the eyewall and everything is disintegrating,” Piotrowski said in his livestream. “The roof’s coming off. Everything’s coming … oh, my gosh, the roof is coming off.”
There were several times throughout the livestream when viewers feared for the storm chaser’s safety. At one point, the building that Piotrowski was using as a shelter for himself and his vehicle collapsed around him.
“Everything’s giving way!” Piotrowski cried out.
People took to social media to express their concern and try to find answers. Shortly after the terrifying collapse, a member of Piotrowski’s team, Juston Drake, tweeted that the storm chaser was safe and would continue to send video from Harvey’s eye.
The contrast was startling.
“We’re in the eye now. Everything is calm,” Piotrowski told his viewers in a new livestream.
Social media viewers were reassured by the quiet, but the eye was only the beginning.
As the National Hurricane Center warned, landfall would usher in the greater dangers. The threat of flooding caused by massive rains and surges was still a major concern, with warnings issued that the deluge could reach up to 13 feet in some coastal areas.
Piotrowski and his team spoke with viewers as they attempted to calculate what direction would offer the best protection after the eye passed. He noted items around him and said that as the backside of the storm passed, pieces of debris would turn into “torpedoes.”
“I don’t want people to freak out about how bad it is in down here,” the storm chaser said in his final video posted Friday night. “It’s bad. It’s really bad.” He said that he and his companions were “just trying to survive.”
The video ended with Piotrowski waiting to determine the best way to drive in order to get away from the debris that would soon be flying off a nearby building.
- This article originally appeared on HuffPost.
The last Category 4 storm to hit the U.S. was Hurricane Charley in August 2004 in Florida. Superstorm Sandy, which pummeled New York and New Jersey in 2012, never had the high winds and had lost tropical status by the time it struck.
But it was devastating without formally being called a major hurricane. Harvey is the first significant hurricane to hit Texas since Ike in September 2008 brought winds of 110 mph (177 kph) to the Galveston and Houston areas, inflicting $22 billion in damage.