Hurricane Beryl delays flights and affects attendance of NAHJ members

National Association of Hispanic Journalists members walk down the stairs at the Loews Hollywood Hotel during the 40th anniversary conference on July 10, 2024. JAEEL BAETO/LATINO REPORTER

The ripple effects of Hurricane Beryl stretched over a thousand miles away from Houston to Hollywood, as the 40th anniversary of NAHJ’s annual conference kicked off this week. From those living in directly impacted areas to those who rallied to cover it, several attendees and exhibitors’ faced delays or were not able to make it outright. 

The Category 1 hurricane landed in Texas on Monday, and caused power outages across Houston. The National Weather Service issues flood watches for parts of Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, New York, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine. 

NAHJ President Yvette Cabrera said during a press conference with the Latino Reporter on Monday that several board members were on standby for reporting. Board member Dunia Elvir shared that Telemundo’s Houston team were also unable to make it to the conference.  Two NBC Universal hiring managers weren’t able to make it either. 

Larissa Lucas, a recent graduate from the University of Arkansas, was meant to fly out from her hometown in West Houston on Monday night. Her flight was canceled six times. By the time she made it to her hotel in Hollywood and accounting for the time difference, she had been traveling for 11 hours.

Despite the exhaustion, she said she is just glad she made it to the conference.

Travis Ruiz, a corporate recruiter for Texas-based media group Nexstar, said the company has been severely impacted as some of their reporters are working without electricity. He also has friends in Houston and the Brownsville area who have been struggling without water.  

“We can sit here and complain all day about being delayed but in reality it could be so much worse,” Ruiz said. 

This is not the first time natural disasters have impacted the conference. Elvir remembers the 2017 earthquake in Mexico. She and several other journalists had to leave the NAHJ conference that year to report on the aftermath. 

Cabrera, who covers environmental justice, views these record-breaking natural disasters as a “sign of the times” and an inevitable aftermath of climate change.

“It is likely going to happen more and more no matter what point in the summer we have [a conference] because it might be a hurricane one time or a heatwave or a wildfire the other,” Cabrera said. “We’re going to get pulled away to do these stories a lot more.”

NAHJ Director of Industry Relations Holly Wallace acknowledged that Beryl impacted speakers and exhibitors, but did not have any additional details or exact numbers.

Briana Mendez-Padilla is a bilingual journalist based in Long Beach, California, who is passionate about covering education and her community. She is a recent graduate from Cal State Long Beach where she managed ENYE (Formerly known as DÍG En Español), a bilingual magazine working to uplift stories on and for the Latine community. Reach her at brianampadilla1214 [at] gmail[dot] com or on X at @brianampadilla.

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