In this week's issue... Storms test broadcasters' preparedness - Cipha Sounds out at Hot 97 - RI FM downgrade complete - Olean translators shuffle - VPR's Montreal signal safe, for now
By SCOTT FYBUSH
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*As another winter storm bears down across a huge swath of NERW-land, broadcasters are still learning the lessons of last Monday's blizzard. It wasn't the apocalypse New York City mayor Bill DeBlasio anticipated - at least not in New York City. But for all the criticism DeBlasio took for preemptively closing down the city, and for all the criticism forecasters took for the predictions that led to near-shutdowns of not only New York but also New Jersey and beyond, it's hard to argue that anyone truly overreacted.
That's Cape Cod in the photo at right, and while most of the Cape's stations stayed on the air in the face of winds as high as 78 miles an hour, the islands off the Cape were battered.
On Nantucket, WAZK (97.7) had battery backup power at its studio and a generator at its transmitter site provided by landlord National Grid. But when the island's main power source (an undersea cable from Hyannis) failed, that generator didn't work, either, and so for just over 24 hours at the height of the storm "97.7 ACK" was off the air.
"We did Facebook updates while we were off the air," operations manager D.C. Collins tells NERW, and as soon as the power was restored at the transmitter site around 12:30 Tuesday afternoon, the station was ready to be the information source the island needed, broadcasting interviews with town manager Libby Gibson and other local officials.
Fortunately, WAZK and sister station WNCK (89.5) suffered little physical damage - "just a couple of shingles flying off the building" in the storm's high winds, Collins says - and we've heard no reports yet of serious damage at any other NERW-land broadcaster, either.
All over the region, many broadcasters did a fine job of getting ready for the storm, lining up hotel rooms for staffers and putting many on overtime to make sure things were covered even if roads and transit were shut down. Whether it was New York's WABC (770) adding extra live programming early Monday or Boston's WFXT (Channel 25) stationing an engineer at its Needham tower site to babysit the transmitter for several nights running, information got out there to the people who needed it. And as our preparedness guru Howard Price of ABC in New York keeps reminding us, it's far better to be overprepared than underprepared. (You really should read his wrapup of the storm coverage, here.)
Which brings us to the "overreaction" piece of things: from what we saw and heard, most forecasters out there did a solid job of being clear about the uncertainty levels of their forecasts. Pretty much all of them were dead-on right about the magnitude of the storm once it hit, and there were plenty of warnings out there about the multiple paths the storm might take, too.
Can news departments (and government officials, and the social media beehive that surrounds them) accept that even in 2015, nature is still fickle and unpredictable and we still have to prepare at times for storms that may turn in a different direction? We'll find out as this latest storm hits - and we're eager to hear from you about how stations in your markets are handling it.
WHAT'S ON THE 2017 TOWER SITE CALENDAR COVER?
That's for YOU to decide.
We have so many beautiful photos set for the 2017 Tower Site Calendar. Several of them would make great covers. So this year, we want your input!
Send your vote to Lisa by 11:59 PM on September 30. Everyone who votes receives a coupon for $1 off anything in our store and be entered in our drawing for a free 2017 calendar.