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Transmitter down; one station won’t be back up until this fall

TANYA CANINO, Sun News Service

If you’re finding nothing but static on your favorite radio station, don’t start banging on the box.

Blame it instead on last week’s storm which took Alice off the dial until Friday and put the X out of earshot until later this summer.

“We just disappeared from Tahoe-Truckee,” said X announcer Bruce Van Dyke.

On Monday, May 3, a windstorm knocked down a transmitter tower on Slide Mountain, putting six radio stations and multiple cellular signals, pagers and other air traffic out of business.

“It’s a catastrophe for a radio station to be off the air,” said Mike Bushey, the vice president and general manager of Americom Broadcasting, which owns six radio stations.

The 140-foot tower blew down sometime Monday morning, according to Ernie Zebal, of Communications Properties which owns the tower.

“The tower is at 9,700 feet, and it’s withstood 140 mile-per-hour winds. We don’t know the exact reason for its falling except that wind is a factor,” Zebal said.

When it fell, KODS Oldies 103.7, Alice 96.5, Sunny 106.9, KTHX 100.9, KZZF 102.9 and a National Public Radio relay from Sacramento were knocked off the air.

KZZF is a new Spanish FM station that was planning to debut May 4 and was forced to postpone its new operations for a few days, according to Mike Millard, general manager.

“For a few hours after the tower fell down, nobody could be heard,” Bushey said.

Within a few hours, however, temporary transmitters were installed to put the radio stations back on the air. But some of the temporary transmitters couldn’t extend to the entire listening area.

Americom down

The Americom Broadcasting stations – Oldies, Alice and Sunny – could not be heard in 30 percent of its listening area, including Fallon, Carson City, Minden, Gardnerville, Lovelock and the Tahoe Basin, Bushey said.

However, the radio signals should be reaching those areas by the end of this week.

It’s another story for the X, which can be heard in Reno and Sparks now, but not in the Tahoe Basin, said Van Dyke. The back-up transmitters cannot put signals over the mountains to the Tahoe Basin.

“The X is just going to be flat out done for awhile there. We’re sorry about this. It’s nothing business, it’s pure nature,” he said.

He added that its advertising business is “minimal” in the basin, but the station is worried about its listeners.

The tower had relayed signals for 15 years without incident.

It probably will not be repaired until later this summer.

It is one of four transmitter towers on Slide Mountain and broadcasters renting space on the other transmitters have allowed for the affected radio stations to share their space until the broken tower is repaired, Bushey said.

Record-setting spot

Slide Mountain is the second windiest spot in North America, after Mt. Washington, New Hampshire, Bushey said.

– John Sammon of World News Service contributed to this article.


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