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Gallery: One Very Unlucky American Tower Site in Florida

First a fire, then a flood

During the wrath of Hurricane Ian, an American Tower site near Fort Myers Beach was flooded, and transmitters serving Renda Broadcasting, Fort Myers Broadcasting and Relevant Radio were destroyed.

But before it bore the brunt of the storm, the same site was hit by a disastrous fire just a few weeks prior. Beasley Media, which had housed its Florida operations at the site prior to the fire, incurred $800,000 in damage and lost six transmitters and a combiner.

[Related: “Beasley’s Radio Engineers Recover Downed Florida Stations“]

Like Beasley, Renda Broadcasting’s WJGO(FM) lost all of its equipment in the fire due to the heat and soot — from BE transmitters to antenna combiners to processors.

WJGO’s fire-damaged tube. (Credit: Jason Horvath)

Relevant Radio, whose WMYR translator is housed on-site, was able to scavenge some of its equipment after the fire; although, as most of it was damaged by smoke and acid, the group was actively looking for replacements.

Engineering equipment in the dumpster at the American Tower site after the fire. (Credit: John Clark)

After the fire, Renda’s WJGO came up with another transmitter (Harris HPX) only to have it destroyed by flooding a few weeks later during Ian.

The driveway headed into WJGO’s facilities at the American Tower site. (Credit: Jason Horvath)

“WJGO is off air at present,” said Jason Horvath, chief engineer and IT director for Renda Broadcasting, on Oct. 7. “This is unfortunately due to several factors including a severely damaged facility, lack of power and unknown damage to the antenna systems.

“[This photo] shows the water line inside the transmitter,” said Horvath. “The site was seven feet above sea level, plus another four to five feet raised off the ground before getting to the floor of the transmitter room. The surge overtook the building and forced the door open [as seen] on security footage.” (Credit: Jason Horvath)
“The site experienced intense coastal flooding during the storm among the intense winds. The site sits just off the coast behind Fort Myers Beach, Fla. where most of the island was wiped away.”

Surveillance footage of the flooding at the American Tower site. (Credit: John Clark)

While Relevant Radio’s translator equipment was mostly spared from the fire — after the flood, everything was a total loss.

John Clark is the Florida engineer for Relevant Radio. He shared photos with Radio World that depicted the scene at the tower site after Hurricane Ian barreled through.

A view of the destruction from Hurricane Ian while driving into the American Tower site. (Credit: John Clark)

Clark said Relevant Radio didn’t replace any equipment after the fire, but now they have no choice as the hurricane “killed everything.”

If you look closely under the equipment panel, you’ll see a water line from the on-site flooding. (Credit: John Clark)
A fish that became stranded at the tower site after the storm. (Credit: John Clark)

While the WYMR translator has been dark since Hurricane Ian flooded the area, as of Oct. 7, Clark says WYMR’s AM broadcast tower — which is located off-site — was only briefly off the air during the storm.

Its tower remained untouched even though its protective gate was brought down. “They were back on the air before I could even get there,” said Clark.

WYMR’s AM tower stands unscathed, though its protective fence collapsed in the storm. (Credit: John Clark)

[Check out the rest of Radio World’s Hurricane Ian coverage]