"Houston, We Have a Problem" in Moore, Okla.

Over the years, I’ve seen others lose tower in ice and wind, but I never thought it would happen to me.
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The KOKC towers, better known as the old KOMA towers, in Moore, Okla., had survived 59 years, including two F5 tornados. On Wednesday March 25, 2015 all that changed. A relatively weak F1 tornado briefly touched down and forever changed that station�s history.

It was an early evening storm, much like any other. I had left the office and was headed home when I received a call from one of our engineers, Mike Fields, saying one of the TV stations had just reported the KOKC towers had fallen.

I immediately turned around and headed back toward Moore. Mike and I talked, via ham radio, about what might have happened as we both drove to the transmitter site. It was still raining heavily, and I couldn�t see the towers until I was a block away. It was a horrible nightmare comes true. Two towers were gone and one was broken over in half with the former top sections hanging down and swaying in the wind. Mike arrived just before me and had said �Houston, we have a problem.�

We waited until the rain and hail subsided to look over the damage. The two end towers were lying on the ground. The center tower was standing but broken over, swinging in the wind. It looked like it could fall any minute. It appeared unsafe to stand anywhere near the damaged tower. We just hoped it wouldn�t break and fall on the transmitter building.

Engineers Scott Benton and Jay Perky immediately moved the KOKC programming to our sister AM, KEBC (1560), along with KOMA(HD-3) and its translator on 103.1.

With clear weather Thursday morning, Mike and I inspected the site. The transmitter building was untouched as well as the antenna tuning units at each tower. The remaining, damaged tower swayed several feet with a light breeze. It was too dangerous for anyone to climb the tower and inspect the damage. We hoped to have a crane attach to the damaged section while second crane lifted the tower crew and cut the damaged portion loose. Unfortunately, it was too muddy for cranes to get into the site.

Friday morning, the tower crew said they thought the tower wouldn�t immediately fall, as long as the winds remained light. That afternoon, Mike and I carefully ventured under the swaying tower where the Antenna Tuning Unit was located. We built and tuned a matching network to feed the damaged tower and quickly left the area. We were back on the air at 10 kW using the auxiliary transmitter.

We operated on the damaged tower until Saturday morning, April 4, 2015 when Brian Burke, owner of Top Hand Tower Company, cut the NE guywire and dropped the tower with a large thud as it hit the ground. The tower was dropped to make room for a new temporary, emergency 190 ft. tower. Four days later, the Top Hand Tower crew finished the new tower complete with the STL microwave dish. Mike and I built and tuned an emergency matching network. Miracle of miracles, we were on the air at 10 kW.

Several options for replacing the towers are under consideration by the Tyler Media owners. One City of Moore official told me he sure hoped we�d replace the towers. Those towers were a Moore, Okla., landmark.

Over the years, I�ve seen others lose tower in ice and wind, but I never thought it would happen to me.


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