East Texas Throwback: KTRE-TV has covered major stories in 60 year history

East Texas Throwback: KTRE-TV has covered major stories in 60 year history
Source: KTRE Staff
Source: KTRE Staff
Source: KTRE Staff
Source: KTRE Staff
Source: KTRE Staff
Source: KTRE Staff
Source: KTRE Staff
Source: KTRE Staff

LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - If you look back at our six decades of covering news, weather and sports in the Pineywoods, you'd see no story is too small or big to get coverage on KTRE-TV.

However, nothing comes close to the national attention Deep East Texas got in the winter of 2003.

"It was a Saturday morning, and yes, I was sleeping late. And I was awakened by this big boom," said Donna McCollum, a veteran reporter with KTRE. "I looked up, and I saw the contrails come over my house."

Quickly Donna and the rest of the KTRE-TV crew went to work to figure out what was happening above the skies over the Pineywoods.

"The calls were just coming into the sheriff's department. And I know my dispatchers. I knew something different happen that morning," McCollum said.

On the morning of February 1st, 2003, seven crew members of Columbia's 28th mission died as their shuttle disintegrated over Deep East Texas during their re-entry.

McCollum sprung into action covering this historic news.

"Who would ever think! Even to this day that a shuttle would ever ever fall over Deep East Texas, and that's what we were actually covering," McCollum said.

Two years later, KTRE-TV had another massive story brewing in the Gulf Coast.

"Hurricane Rita was one of those storms that I think really got people's attention mainly because we came off a month where we had Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans," said Brad Hloze KTRE's chief meteorologist.

Rita was followed a few years later by Hurricane Ike in 2008.

"What's interesting about Ike is that even thought it wasn't by definition a major hurricane, by landfall, it had all the characteristics of one," Hlozek said.

Soon, like with Hurricane Rita in 2005, evacuees from the Gulf descended on the Pineywoods for shelter.

"Me and my parents traveled all the way from La Porte to get some shelter. We had to get three gallons of gas. So it has been a long like 12 hours or something," said one of the young evacuees, whose family ended up in Angelina County.

Since those storms, Deep East Texas has recovered, but Hlozek has a reminder for viewers, especially since we are in Hurricane season.

"All storms are different in their own ways. So past results don't necessarily indicate future promise going forward," Hlozek said.

In the world of East Texas sports, few things compare to the year the Lufkin Panthers won the 5A state championship in football.

"Saying that Lufkin winning the championship in 2001 was a big deal is an understatement for Lufkin," said Laura Sadler, KTRE's sports director. "I mean; here in East Texas, we live for those Friday nights under the light."

Lufkin won the state title with a score of 38-24 over Austin West Lake.

"I'm really happy. It's a great thing for the city of Lufkin," said Lufkin head coach and athletic director John Outlaw after winning the title.

Fourteen years later, the Pineywoods got another state title, this time with the Lufkin Panthers boys' soccer team.

"The number of people I saw go out to that state championship and semi-finals game was pretty incredible," Sadler said.

"You have made Lufkin proud, and we are excited for what you have done. Thank you gentlemen," said Lufkin Mayor Bob Brown, during a city recognition of the soccer team.

"The fact that Lufkin can rally around these kids as well as they do. It touches my heart," Sadler said. "I love going out there seeing these kids succeed. Makes my job a lot of fun to see all the great things they can do for Lufkin and East Texas."

From news, weather, or sports we stay committed to our Deep East Texas viewers 60 years later.

You and your family are invited to KTRE-TV's 60th celebration on Saturday, August 29th from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. The party will be at the KTRE-TV studio located at 358 TV Road in Pollok, TX, next to the Lufkin State School. We'll have free food, music, meet and greets with the KTRE anchors, kids area, tour of the KTRE-TV studio, and more.