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July 10-17, 2003
Two That Fell
news" and "tower site" are two phrases that normally
don't go together - and when they do, it's usually bad news.
So it was last weekend, when we received word that the 1360-foot
tower of KETV (Channel 7) in Omaha collapsed late Friday night
- and then, just hours later, that the 731-foot tower of WIFR
(Channel 23) in Rockford, Illinois had come down in 80 mph winds
as a fierce storm hit northern Illinois.
It's our policy here at Site of the Week to present "before"
photos of downed towers whenever they exist in our collection,
and it so happens that our 2001 Big Trip included stops in both
WIFR, then, first: Rockford's TV landscape is laid out like
so many small Midwest cities (Fort Wayne comes to mind), with
a cluster of tall towers and a studio/office building at the
base of each one. In the case of Rockford, the cluster is west
of town along Meridian Road and Auburn Street (the better to
hit WIFR's actual city of license, Freeport), with four towers.
WIFR's was the northernmost along Meridian, rising right behind
a neat brick studio building and easily visible from the WTVO
(Channel 17) site just down the street.
Web site was the first with pictures of all the damage up
the street at WIFR later on Saturday; all of Rockford's TV stations
(and most of the city, for that matter) were without power after
the storm hit, and it was mid-afternoon before any of the surviving
stations managed to get back on the air.
WIFR put its microwave truck at the studio to restore a feed
to Rockford-area cable systems by late Saturday; it looks as
though cable will be the only way to see WIFR for at least a
few weeks while a temporary replacement transmitter is rigged
As for Omaha, the KETV tower on North 72nd Street near Crown
Point was a midwestern tower landmark - or rather, part of a
landmark: four very tall towers (all over 1000') in close proximity
in a line along 72nd Street. From a distance - say, from the
nearby KOMJ (590) tower - they looked like the world's biggest
AM directional array. Closer in, it was clear that the southernmost
tower held three FMs, with KMTV (Channel 3) and several more
FMs just to the north, then KETV's tower, then the WOWT (Channel
6) tower at the northern end of the "array."
KETV's tower was
built in 1966, and held only two antennas: KETV itself and a
three-bay FM, public radio KVNO (90.7). In June, KETV had removed
its channel 7 antenna and was in the process of replacing it
with a Harris dual-band antenna for both analog and digital service.
Did that have something to do with the collapse, which nobody
saw (it was 11:09 PM) but which neighbors reported sounded like
fireworks going off? It's not our place to speculate.
The good news, at least, is that nobody was hurt in either
collapse, and damage to the buildings appears to have been relatively
minor. (You can see KETV
pictures here; the tower fell right across the building.)
The even better news, for KETV at least, is that channel 7
was able to stay on the air from its old tower next to the studios
at 27th and Douglas, near downtown, where the station will continue
to operate for the next year or so while it works to rebuild
its downed tower on 72nd Street. (KVNO was not as fortunate;
it had no working auxiliary site, and is now scrambling to get
back on the air.)
Barring further tower falls, we'll get back on schedule with
the Carolinas trip next week, as we recount our visit to the
very unusual WODI (1230) in Brookneal, Virginia. See you then!
Want to see more neat sticks all year
round? Nashville's WSM (at right) is one of the more than
a dozen Tower Site images featured in the 2003 Tower Site Calendar,
still available from Tower Site of the Week and fybush.com.
If you liked last year's edition, you'll love this one: higher-quality
images (in addition to WSM, this year's edition includes Providence's
WHJJ; Mount Mansfield, Vermont; Buffalo's WBEN; KOMA in Oklahoma
City; WTIC, Hartford; Brookmans Park, England; WPAT, Paterson;
Four Times Square, New York; WIBC in Indianapolis; WWVA in Wheeling,
W.V.; WGN Chicago and more), more dates in radio history, a convenient
hole for hanging - and we'll even make sure all the dates fall
on the right days!
This year's edition is still available in limited quantities!
And this year, you can order with your Visa, MasterCard,
Discover or American Express by using the handy link below!
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of the Week subscription pledge right now: support NERW/fybush.com
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You can also order by mail; just send a check for $16
per calendar (NYS residents add 8% sales tax), shipping included,
to Scott Fybush, 92 Bonnie Brae Ave., Rochester
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