Skip to main content

Sportscasting pioneer returns to TV after serious burns

By Thom Patterson, CNN
updated 8:35 PM EST, Tue January 1, 2013
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Storm describes yelling to daughter 'Mommy's on fire...Call 911!"
  • Storm hosts the Rose Parade just weeks after suffering propane burns
  • She was burned at her Connecticut home while using an outdoor grill
  • Appearing with a bandage, Storm tweets thanks to supporters

(CNN) -- Less than a month after suffering serious burns in a propane grill accident, sports broadcasting pioneer Hannah Storm returned to TV Tuesday, hosting Southern California's historic Rose Parade.

Storm, host of ESPN's morning "SportsCenter," was using a propane gas grill outside her Connecticut home three weeks ago when it exploded, ABC said, causing her first- and second-degree burns. Storm lost her eyebrows, eyelashes and much of her hair, according to the network.

"Can't begin to thank you all enough for your kindness and support," Storm tweeted Tuesday before the parade. On Monday she tweeted, "Especially thankful this New Year's!"

The only on-camera evidence of her accident was Storm's bandaged left hand, which was visible at the beginning of the parade broadcast.

"The healing process has begun, and you look as good as ever," said her co-host, Josh Elliott, Storm's former partner at ESPN.

"The best medicine is being with you," she said.

In an interview with ABC's World News, Storm described the accident. She checked on the propane grill on a chilly night and discovered the flame had been blown out.

"The cover of the grill was open so I assumed ... that there wouldn't be any gas in the air. Well, propane is actually heavier than air and especially in cold weather it tends to sit on top of the grill, pool inside," she said. "So the second I relit the flame -- after I turned the gas off ... it was a wall of fire, a huge explosion. So much force that it blew the doors of the grill completely off.

"A neighbor clear across the street had thought a tree had fallen through his roof, that's how loud the explosion was, and it happened in a split second," she said. "And immediately I was on fire, so my hair was on fire, my chest and the whole top of my shirt was on fire. I didn't know what to do other than -- I'm left handed -- reach and just get the shirt off of me as quickly as possible.

"I yelled inside to my 15-year-old daughter who was in the kitchen, 'Mommy's on fire! You have to call 911!' " Storm said, becoming choked up.

Before Tuesday's Rose Parade broadcast, she spent an hour in the makeup room and wore false eyelashes and hair extensions, she said.

At one point during the parade broadcast, Storm added a personal note as a float honoring the parade's president -- a nurse -- passed by. "Thanks to all the great nurses at Westchester burn unit" who have "been to my house every day for the last couple of weeks helping me be here today," Storm said.

Celebrating its 124th year, the parade has made Pasadena famous with its magnificent, colorful floats decorated with rose and other flower petals, stems and leaves. The parade's theme this year was "Oh, the Places You'll Go," a tip of the hat to children's author Dr. Seuss.

Related: Chinese and American marching bands unite for Rose Parade

An Atlanta native and Notre Dame alum, Storm pioneered her way into the world of sports journalism. She began her career in the early '80s, when the TV sports industry hired few women. "I literally couldn't get anyone to hire me," she told Forbes.com in 2009. "Having a woman do sports was seen as too risky."

Her persistence led to on-air sports jobs at CNN and NBC -- where she covered high-profile events including the Olympics, baseball's World Series and the Wimbledon tennis championship. Later, Storm hosted CBS News' "Early Show," where she transcended sports and interviewed newsmakers such as Barack Obama and George W. Bush.

Storm, who was born with a port wine-stain birthmark underneath her left eye, founded a charitable organization that helps children with debilitating and disfiguring vascular birthmarks.

CNN's Sarah Aarthun and Michael Martinez contributed to this report.

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT