CORBETT, Ore. – When KGW reporter Keely Chalmers got her morning assignment to cover a storm moving into the Columbia River Gorge last Thursday, little did she know one major wind gust would send her spiraling across the World Wide Web.
Chalmers, a certified meteorologist along with her reporter duties, wanted to illustrate the power of 100-plus mph winds in the Corbett area. So she decided to show the sheer force on her own body as she stood on the stairs at Crown Point, a famous landmark along Historic Highway 30.
An amateur weather-watcher clocking the winds at Crown Point volunteered to serve as Chalmers' spotter, bracing her from behind. But even with his help, Chalmers was suddenly swept off her feet.
The powerful winds actually pushed her backwards, spun her around and knocked her to the ground – and the whole foot-flailing feat was caught on camera. Mike Galimanis, the photographer working with Chalmers, also got knocked around while working on the story and ended up with a black eye and bruised hip.
“When I was getting flown, I thought, this is scary," Chalmers said. "I was like, oh my gosh, this could be bad, this is going to hurt. Immediately I said, ‘I’m fine, I’m fine.’ Then I thought, I gotta get out of here!”
Despite her not-so-graceful landing on unforgiving concrete, Chalmers only suffered a few scratches and bruises, so she was able to laugh at herself.
“I laughed it off because I didn’t really hurt myself. I knew it looked pretty funny and I didn’t want people to worry,” she recalled.
She wasn’t even planning on using the wind wallop in her story for the evening newscasts. But when producers back at the KGW studios saw the video, they talked her into it because they thought it would really give viewers a feel for what it was like up there.
“It’s surprising, I don’t know if they like watching a female reporter go head over heels, or if they’re just really interested in the wind. It was comparable to trying to do a live-shot on the wing of a small propeller plane,” she said.
The video clip on kgw.com did some flying of its own – straight to the top of the “most viewed” list, where it stayed all week. A slideshow depicting Chalmers’ frame-by-frame fall also racked up record page views.
Slideshow: Bowled over by wind
Then, even before the whir of the winds began to die down in the Gorge, the assignment desk phones started ringing off the hook at KGW. The viral video had already captured the attention of national TV program producers and they wanted to feature Chalmers and her amazing storm video on their shows, too.
The Weather Channel and CNN added the video to their ongoing news churn last week and “NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams” shared the clip with its millions and millions of viewers on Friday. But it didn’t stop there – NBC’s “Today Show” featured the video during its Monday program and producers for the Ellen DeGeneres Show were busy trying to line up an interview with Chalmers for their Video of the Day segment.