Radio is at its best when the weather is bad; and that’s a theme of stories emerging from Florida after a wild month of hurricanes.
The Pensacola News Journal relates a number of radio anecdotes in an article about Ivan called “Voices in the Storm.” Among them:
A group of 40 staff, family and media at WUWF(FM) “holed up in the station on the University of West Florida campus to keep people informed” through the night; staff sleeping on the floor for days after.
“I’ve never experienced anything like it and hope to never do it again,” the paper quotes manager Joseph Vincenza. “I have only been here four years. Everyone says for my first one, I sure picked a dandy.”
Five staffers from Cat Country 98.7, including owner Dave Hoxeng, spent the night at the tower to ensure the station would stay on through the storm. “About midnight I sent a fax to emergency services giving them our names,” he said. “In case they had to paw through the rubble, they would know how many people to look for.”
The staff of Cumulus Broadcasting’s three-station cluster pooled their resources. An FM music station stopped playing music and dedicated itself to full-time news and call-ins while the sister news station was off the air.
“During the storm, our tower was knocked over at 1 a.m. when the eye went through, and we got back up at about 11:40 a.m. the next day,” market manager Liz Hanlon said.
“We hope that we helped in putting people together.”
WYCT(FM)’s Program Director Kevin “Hobie” King compared the experience to covering a national tragedy. “You are experiencing the story and being in the middle of it. It’s exhilarating and frightening.”
“I never thought I would be happy to say I was going through a Category 1 hurricane.” But after a night at the transmitter, those relatively weak hurricane winds were welcome, the newspaper reported.
Callers to the station reported seeing roofs fly loose, water flooding into their homes and that they were praying.
“No one who went through it will ever forget the sound of that hurricane,” King said.
WUWF Classical Music Director Steve Tortorici compared the storm to music. “It got to the point where the whole building started to hum,” he said. “My mind started to wonder, ‘Will my house still be here? This station? This town?’ Then the storm reached such a pitch that there was a tone, and being a musician, I recognized it as F below middle C,” he said.
“After an hour or more, the storm intensified again, two tones going, like a siren would be. When the storm reached its most intense, there was a chord going, like a blues chord … that did not move for the entire duration.”
“I wish I had thought beforehand to record it,” Tortorici told the newspaper. “Of course, when you don’t know if you are doing to live or die, you do listen with a certain intensity.”