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Herbert dominates multiformat tornado coverage

Workers put a tarp on the roof of a damaged home in the aftermath of Tuesday's tornado that tore through the New Orleans East section of New Orleans, Wednesday, Feb. 8, 2017. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

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When New Orleans staff photographer Gerald Herbert heard reports of a tornado touchdown 50 miles away, outside of New Orleans, he jumped into his truck and headed out of town to get a head start on coverage of the damage. Within minutes he changed direction when another twister touched down inside New Orleans itself.

Over the next few hours, Herbert was a one man journalism machine, filing to photos, video, text, radio and even securing dramatic UGC.

When he arrived on the scene of the tornado in New Orleans East, a neighborhood that has yet to fully recover from Hurricane Katrina, he instantly made pictures with his iPhone and filed them to get something on the wire fast. He then took photos with his professional camera and filed those. He shot video, including an interview with a man whose glasses were blown off his face. But before he could finish sending it, he realized he needed to get to the nearby airport. There, he persuaded an employee to mind his laptop while it finished uploading.

Herbert was a one man journalism machine, filing to photos, video, text, radio and even securing dramatic UGC.

He quickly took off in his own plane – he had another pilot fly for him – so he could beat a flight restriction about to go into effect. With only 10 minutes in the air, he shot aerial photos that gave a haunting perspective to the wide destruction. On the ground again, he grabbed soundbites for video and text and gave an interview to AP Radio. In the course of talking to one witness, he discovered she had taken video of the tornado and her screaming effort to take cover. He sent it in. When the desk had trouble getting an emailed waiver back from her, he helped her charge her phone so she could respond. After climbing over the rubble, he had to pull carpenter’s nails from his boots and the next day he had two flat tires from the nails. Nonetheless, Herbert managed to capture imagery that ran on the front of the New York Times National section, the front page of USA today, the Dallas Morning News and many other news outlets. His still images were also used on Shephard Smith’s show on FOX.

Herbert’s quick response and his almost superhuman ability to file to multiple formats earned him this week’s $300 Best of the States award.

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The moon rises over a destroyed neighborhood on Feb. 8, 2017, one day after a tornado tore through the New Orleans East section of New Orleans. – AP PHOTO / GERALD HERBERT
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