Live from Lake Placid

Nationwide coverage of total solar eclipse was filmed in Lake Placid

State Olympic Regional Development Authority Communications Director Darcy Norfolk, left, joins CBS2 News Chief Weathercaster Lonnie Quinn for an early-morning broadcast from the Lake Placid Olympic Center on Monday morning. (Provided photo — Darcy Norfolk)

LAKE PLACID — Most visitors to the Tri-Lakes for Monday’s eclipse planned their trips well in advance, with some waiting seven years to experience totality. Others, like CBS2 News chief weathercaster Lonnie Quinn and his crew, set their sights on the Adirondack Park with less than 24 hours’ notice.

“I’ve been in this industry since 1997, (and) I’ve never seen a live shot come together at the 11th hour like this in my life,” Quinn said.

At around midnight on Sunday morning, Quinn’s team — who had been set up in Rochester for the eclipse, with interviews and locations already lined up — realized that the cloud cover in western New York would make for anticlimactic eclipse coverage. They made the tough decision to scramble to a town further east that had a better forecast for the event, somewhere recognizable both statewide and nationally, and landed on Lake Placid.

“TV, there are so many moving pieces,” Quinn said. “Most of the time, it cannot be changed at the last minute. … It’s not just me and a microphone and a cameraman.”

Quinn reached out to state Olympic Regional Development Authority Director of Communications Darcy Norfolk to set up the broadcast at midnight on Sunday. At 8 a.m., she read the email and began formulating a plan.

“Lonnie Quinn emails me and basically, as he said, (he) threw up a flare and (I) grabbed it,” Norfolk said. “I emailed them right back.”

Norfolk looped in the Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism, who got to work finding hotel rooms for the crew. Hotels in the Tri-Lakes all reported near-full occupancy in the week before the eclipse.

“I knew immediately, if we can’t land hotel rooms, then we can’t get them here,” Norfolk said.

ROOST was able to snag some last-minute rooms at the Cambria in Lake Placid for the news crew, cementing their plans. The crew packed up and began the almost five-hour-long drive north, while Quinn began making his way west from Connecticut. Quinn said Norfolk saved the broadcast.

“Darcy answered my SOS call,” he said. “She did everything without taking a minute’s sleep.”

Quinn said he was especially impressed by ORDA’s ability to accommodate the broadcast not only from the Olympic Center, but also remotely from several venues. According to Norfolk, ORDA’s past experiences broadcasting sporting events live helped last-minute preparations for this broadcast go smoothly.

The news team toured Lake Placid locations with Norfolk on Sunday evening, planning the next day’s broadcast with her. She helped Quinn kick off the broadcast the next morning from the deck of the Lake Placid Olympic Center, too.

“We went live at 6:05 a.m. from the deck,” she said. “It came out great.”

Throughout the morning, Quinn broadcasted from all around Lake Placid, even delivering the national forecast on CBS from the top of Little Whiteface.

He then spent the afternoon stationed at the gate to the Olympic Speedskating Oval on Main Street, interviewing people who were in town to watch the eclipse. Norfolk said that watching passersby interact with Quinn made her realize how many people were in town from the New York City area.

“The number of people that were here from New Jersey, Connecticut, the New York metro area … he’s their weatherman. Everyone would walk past and be like, ‘Oh my God, it’s Lonnie,'” she said.

Quinn said he was just as starstruck by Lake Placid itself.

“You’ve got this venue that is so picturesque,” he said. “You’ve got this history of Eric Heiden and the 1980 Olympics right there at your feet and you’re going into a total eclipse. It doesn’t get any better than that.”

Quinn was a junior in high school during the 1980 Olympic Winter Games — and he has the scars to prove it. When Mike Eruzione scored during the Miracle on Ice medal-round game between the U.S. and Soviet Union, he cut his knuckles open on his parents’ basement ceiling while celebrating the goal.

“I view it as a scar of pride,” Quinn said.

Lake Placid’s eclipse weather was its own miracle — while most of the state experienced dark, cloudy weather, the North Country saw clear blue skies and a palpable change during the more than three minutes of totality.

“(Lake Placid) was the best place to watch the eclipse in the state of New York and, I argue, it was the best place in the country,” Quinn said.

He added that the beautiful weather in Lake Placid was statistically unlikely.

“On April 8 in Lake Placid, you have a 19% chance for a clear sky. Climatology also tells you that in Austin, Texas, you have a 91% chance for a clear sky,” he said. “Austin, Texas was 100% clouded out and they had storms. Lake Placid, which had an 81% chance to have a lousy day, had a spectacular day.”

Norfolk said the moment of totality “solidified” CBS’s decision to move the broadcast to Lake Placid. Their other teams’ eclipse experiences across the state did not compare to Quinn’s.

“We just didn’t know what the weather was going to be. We lucked out incredibly. It really put Lake Placid, the town, the village, ORDA facilities on the map of key locations of where the eclipse was happening,” Norfolk said.

Quinn closed out his broadcast in front of the Miracle on Ice scoreboard in the Olympic Center’s lobby, and Norfolk returned home amazed by how well the broadcast went.

“I was like, ‘Oh my God,’ but it ended up coming out really well and there was really no hiccups at all,” she said. “We literally started from scratch at 8 a.m. Sunday morning, and we pulled this off.”

Norfolk said that she hopes more TV crews will consider Lake Placid as a broadcast location in the future, both for its “Olympic vibe” and its “weatherproof” nature.

“There is so much to do here,” she said. “Our village and our place just has this level of experience like no other, and anyone is happy to be here.”

Quinn said that the broadcast on Monday was one for the ages.

“All of this taking place in an epic location that is special without an eclipse, and then you put an eclipse on top of it, it’s just a magnanimous jump,” he said. “She moved mountains. Darcy and ORDA moved mountains for us.”


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