Technical station personnel along the East Coast are still cleaning up transmitter sites and studios in the wake of Hurricane Irene.
The FCC believes about 10 radio stations remained off the air as of Monday.
That number could have been much worse without stations having access to well-maintained generators positioned before the storm, believes Clear Channel Radio SVP Engineering & Capital Management Steve Davis.
Simply buying a generator isn’t enough, he emphasized. “Our generators came up and worked as intended. That hasn’t always been the case. This result is huge and is only possible when the local engineers maintain them, test them and make sure they are topped off with fuel.”
The company conducted a hurricane prep conference call before Irene’s landfall to reinforce the generator maintenance message. “But that only goes so far — it wouldn’t have undone long-term neglect.”
Clear Channel Radio has lots of stations running on generators post-Irene and two off the air as of today, according to Davis.
WRWD(AM) in Poughkeepsie/Hudson Valley N.Y. was off the air today because of a fallen power line. Also in Poughkeepsie, the WKIP(AM) site was off the air because of flooding. “There was three feet of water in the transmitter building. One of the ATUs was completely covered with water,” said Davis, who said the auxiliary transmitter was damaged along with a new 10 kW BE FM transmitter for another station.
In New Haven, Conn., the WAVZ(AM) transmitter site flooded and the station was operating on night power today.
Davis says Clear Channel was able to return several stations to commercial power Monday, including WSUS(FM), Sussex, N.J.; WELI(AM) studios and transmitter site in New Haven, Conn.; and its Nassau, N.Y. operations. Albany, N.Y. stations back on commercial power Monday include WGY(AM), WOFX(AM), WPYX(FM), WRVE(FM) and WTRY(FM).
Stations remaining on generators today include WALK(FM), Nassau, N.Y., WRNQ(FM), Poughkeepsie/Hudson Valley, N.Y., WWBB(FM) and WSNE(FM) in Providence, R.I. and WHCY(FM), Sussex, N.J. He adds that WWTX(AM) in Wilmington, Del., was close to running out of fuel so Clear Channel was moving one of its DARP generators there tonight; that type of generator needs less fuel to operate. A power line is down in that location.
Those are all Clear Channel stations. Elsewhere WNYC(AM) remains off the air because of flooding in New Jersey. A message on its website states listeners can still hear its signal on WNYC(FM) and online at NJPublicRadio.org.
Greater Media stations in New Jersey “took a real hard hit,” with most studios and transmitter sites on generators for extended periods, according to Greater Media VP Radio Engineering Milford Smith.
“The main site for WCTC(AM) was inundated by the Raritan River, which was more than 20 feet above flood stage — about equivalent to what we saw with Floyd in 1999.” The main site went down about 8:30 Sunday night when the ATU, which is close to 20 feet above ground, went underwater. Greater Media has an alternate antenna/transmitter site that took over WCTC transmissions until about 1 p.m. yesterday as water receded. The station remained on the air.
There was about two feet of water in the transmitter building, with some damage to the WCTC tower, its transmitter building, catwalk and the floor, according to Smith.
Greater Media stations in Boston and Philly had various transmitter and studio locations on generator during the storm with no lost airtime.
Entercom reported issues at stations in Norfolk-Virginia Beach, Va., Boston and Scranton Wilkes-Barre, Pa. according to Corporate Engineer John Price. RW was awaiting further details as of early afternoon Tuesday.
Hearst-owned WBAL(AM) in Baltimore is back on the air after being off the air for about five hours Monday due to storm-related power problems at its transmitter. The signal remained available online and via its iPhone app, according to the Baltimore Sun, which also quoted GM Ed Kiernan’s frustration. “The toughest of this is that we have just been through a very difficult weekend. We were running 24/7 in storm coverage, and everything went fine. And now the sun comes out, and we’re faced with this.”
NAB President/CEO Gordon Smith said radio stations from the Carolinas to Maine did “a remarkable job” keeping citizens informed during Hurricane Irene.
“While cellphone, electricity and cable system outages were occurring along the East Coast, broadcasters were a trusted resource that millions of Americans relied upon for accurate information. Our stations used a combination of ‘boots on the ground’ reporting and social media to keep citizens informed.”