NEW YORK — ESPN anchor Hannah Storm will return to the air on New Year’s Day, exactly three weeks after she was seriously burned in a propane gas grill accident at her home.
Storm suffered second-degree burns on her chest and hands, and first-degree burns to her face and neck. She lost her eyebrows and eyelashes, and roughly half her hair.
Storm will host ABC’s telecast of the 2013 Rose Parade on Tuesday. Her left hand will be bandaged and she said viewers might notice a difference in her hair texture where extensions have been added.
“I’m a little nervous about things I used to take for granted,” she said by phone this weekend from Pasadena, Calif. “Little things like putting on makeup and even turning pages on my script.”
The award-winning sportscaster and producer was preparing dinner outside her home in Connecticut on the night of Dec. 11 when she noticed the flame on the grill had gone out. She turned off the gas and when she reignited it “there was an explosion and a wall of fire came at me.”
“It was like you see in a movie, it happened in a split-second,” she said. “A neighbor said he thought a tree had fallen through the roof, it was that loud. It blew the doors off the grill.”
With her left hand, she tore off her burning shirt. She tried to use another part of her shirt to extinguish the flames that engulfed her head and chest, while yelling for help. Her 15-year-old daughter, Hannah, called 911 and a computer technician who was working in the house grabbed some ice as Storm tried to cool the burns.
Soon, police and rescue teams arrived at the house. Storm’s husband, NBC sportscaster Dan Hicks, also had returned home with another of the couple’s three daughters. As her mother was being treated, the younger Hannah calmly said something that, days later, her mom could laugh about.
“OK, Mommy, I’m going to do my homework now,” she said.
Storm was taken by ambulance to the Trauma and Burn Center at Westchester Medical Center and was treated for 24 hours.
“I didn’t see my face until the next day and you wonder how it’s going to look,” she said. “I was pretty shocked. But my overarching thought was I’ve covered events with military members who have been through a lot worse than me, and they’ve come through. I kept thinking, `I can do this. I’m fortunate.”’
Other than going to Christmas Eve Mass, Storm hadn’t been outside until her trip to California. ESPN reworked its anchor schedule while she was recovering, and NBC and the Golf Channel rearranged their staffing while Hicks attended to his wife.
Storm is set to host her fifth Rose Parade, with some changes. She’s left-handed, and taking notes is almost impossible. Dressing and showering are challenges, too.
Storm said that long before her accident, she’d been inspired by Iraq War veteran, actor and “Dancing With the Stars” winner J.R. Martinez, the grand marshal at last year’s parade. He was severely burned in a land mine accident while serving overseas.
One attraction of this year’s parade that she was eager to see — the Nurses’ Float, and she hoped to use that moment on air to thank everyone who had taken care of her.
Storm wants to anchor “SportsCenter” in Bristol, Conn., next Sunday. After that, the Notre Dame alum is ready to go in person to watch the No. 1 Irish play Alabama in the national championship game at Miami. She said the school reached out after hearing about her injuries and had been very supportive.
“More than anything, I feel gratitude,” she said. “Something like this really makes you appreciate everything you have, even the chance to wake up on New Year’s Day and do your job.”