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Microburst Hits Colorado Radio Station, Downs Operations

In addition to flooding, half of KLMR's roof was ripped off

KLMR(AM/FM) were pushed off the air Saturday, July 23 after a microburst hit the station’s building and ripped off half of the roof. The National Weather Service describes a microburst as “a localized column of sinking air (downdraft) within a thunderstorm.” NWS says this natural phenomenon can cause extensive damage at the surface with wind speeds reaching up to 100 mph.

The FM is a 100 kW signal on 93.5 MHz. The AM station is on 950 kHz with 5 kW during the day and 500 watts at night. The affected building houses the KLMR(AM/FM) studio plus the RF site for KLMR(AM).

Robert DeLancey, a managing partner for KLMR and its parent company 25-7 Media, told Radio World that the station was hit around 7:15 p.m.

“When I got to the building that night, water was pouring in the ceiling into and onto the consoles, mics, computers [and] in both studios,” said DeLancey.

The scene from the roof of KLMR’s building in Lamar, Colorado after the storm. (Photo via KLMR)

He said the KLMR building was built in the 1940s with two stacked basements. Level one is a regular basement and level two underneath is a bomb shelter. Neither, however, were spared from the storm.

“Every level was full of water,” said DeLancey. “Our engineer got there within 15 minutes and shut off the power and we immediately began pulling all the computers, monitors, consoles, microphones and UPS out as quickly as we could. All the while rain was pouring in. We were drenched along with everything in the studios.”

After salvaging what they could, DeLancey said the studio gear was brought over to KVAY(FM), KLMR’s sister station, to dry out. While both stations are located in Lamar, Colo. only three miles apart, the NWS says a microburst is usually less than or equal to 2.5 miles in diameter, so damage is very targeted.

“So far, most everything is working. We have KLMR(FM) on the air, but not fully functionable. We can’t load our traffic logs yet. It’s a work in progress.”

Radio World was told that the automation system was completely removed from KLMR studios and now occupies the conference room table at KVAY, which is halfway between the KLMR studio (and AM towers) and the KLMR(FM) tower.

KLMR and KVAY’s chief engineer, Kit Haskins, said that conference room table is populated with what he calls an “engineering nightmare.”

KVAY’s conference room table housing KLMR’s automation system. (Photo via Kit Haskins)

Haskins said the station’s FM has a 950 MHz STL path to a “water tank” site just south of the city of Lamar, about five miles from KLMR’s studios.

“The FM transmitter is still operational from the water tank site with a secured IP path in lieu of the traditional 950 MHz STL,” said Haskins. “Audio is over IP using a cellular LTE router with OpenVPN to secure the IP path. The same secure IP path is also being used for telemetry for remote command and control of KLMR(FM) 93.5.”

KLMR’s mini rack at the FM site.

As far as the on-site AM transmitter goes, Haskins said that was removed from the studio building and placed into a Conex shipping container to shelter it from ongoing bad weather.

“We are attempting to get a Tuff Shed located near the ‘night tower’ and operate with reduced power (from 5 kW daytime down to 1 kW). The nighttime pattern is lost at this point as the phasing cabinet located inside the studio is also damaged from the events that took place Saturday.”

The southeast Colorado station, known for playing music from the ’80s, ’90s and now, posted to Facebook on Sunday, July 24 to alert its listeners to the disrupted service.

DeLancey said he hopes KLMR will be “functioning at 100%” in the next few weeks. Although, where the station’s operations will be permanently housed is still up in the air.

“Our insurance company believes the building could be a total loss. We should know about that within the next few days. What hasn’t helped is that we have had storms every night since.”

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