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Dec 28

Paul McLane
12/28/2011 4:13:00 PM 

Jon Hosford is director of engineering for Montpelier Broadcasting Inc. Here’s an email and photo link he sent me in September. I share it now as an end-of-year nod to radio broadcast engineers and the hard work they do.

My engineer in Burlington, Vt., had an interesting Tropical Storm Irene experience I wanted to share with your readers.

Chad Brosseau is chief engineer for our seven-station group in Burlington. Other than sites without backup power, all of our stations fared well during the storm. We use one of the towers at WCAT(AM) as a central hub for our STL shots to most of our stations. Monday after the storm, Chad and I traced a minor problem with a remote control to that location. Chad drove out to investigate. The weather was bright and sunny. A perfect late summer day in Vermont.

WCAT’s site is located in the Intervale area of Burlington. It is flood plain for the Winooski River, and some of the year is pretty wet, but drivable. The building and dog houses are elevated six feet because a flood in the 1980s destroyed the newly built facility. Chad quickly located the problem and proceeded to fix it. About an hour later, he looked out to find himself in a growing sea of water!

The Winooski had finally gone over its banks and was rapidly filling the Intervale, with Chad in the center.

He finished up quickly and worked out a plan. The only route to drive out already was impassable. He drove the station vehicle to the highest ground he could find. Not knowing how high the water would get this time, he gathered his tools and backpack to carry out with him. You’ve got to protect your tools!

He proceeded to wade half a mile through water that was waist-deep at times (holding his tool bag over his head!) out to high ground. A Burlington Free Press photographer caught a picture of him as he approached dry ground. (That is Chad in the center of the picture at the end of his long wade.)

Chad was lucky. There was almost no current, and once he went a short distance, he was within sight of people who could offer help if he got into trouble. It was a long walk.

Days after the storm the station vehicle remained stranded, although we were told that the water only went part way up the wheels. Chad since has dried out and has a good story to tell for years.

I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have thought to bring hip waders to a normally dry site on a bright sunny day. Maybe they need to become a part of the normal tool kit. In Vermont, we’re used to the danger of being stranded on a mountain top site by sudden snow (and are prepared for it). But, being stranded by rapidly rising water just doesn’t occur to us!

Thanks to radio broadcast engineers for all they do, even when their hard work and personal exertions do not end up in the newspaper. Send me pix of your own staff at work. I'm at pmclane@nbmedia.com.

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