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Texas stations ride out Hurricane Harvey

Major weather events have a way of bringing out the best in broadcasters, from ingenious ways to battle the elements and remain on the air, to broadcasting relief efforts afterwards.

Multiple Texas broadcast markets were reporting Monday the start of on-air relief drives for areas affected by Hurricane Harvey, the first Category 4 storm to hit the state in more than 50 years.

Rockport, to the east of Corpus Christi, suffered the worst wind damage from Harvey. 

Rain from the hurricane and the downgraded tropical storm deluged the Houston market as well as the Brazos, Colorado, Lavaca, Neches, San Jacinto and Trinity River basins, dropping nearly 30 inches of rain. 

Widespread flooding and its aftermath will be a major problem for the area for the foreseeable future.

Despite Harvey’s high winds and significant rains, Texas broadcasters persevered, remaining on the air to provide life-saving information, despite enormously trying circumstances.

While the full story will be known in the days and weeks to come, it is clear as of Aug. 28 that only a small number of stations were actually knocked off the air for any long periods of time. 

Some stations, however, were operating under extremely difficult circumstances such as transmitter damage, power interruptions and flooding.

The FCC activated its Disaster Information Reporting System on Friday morning in anticipation of Harvey’s Friday evening landfall.

The FCC uses the information reported voluntarily through DIRS to track problem areas, to establish priorities, and designate federal resources to help resolve operational issues for broadcasters.

Over the weekend, about a dozen stations reported they were either off the air or were operating with serious issues.

Several Corpus Christi broadcasters evacuated their facilities ahead of the storm and remained on the air with programming from distant markets.

iHeartMedia’s Corpus Christi stations simulcast sister station KTRH-AM from Houston for example.

By Saturday morning, several Corpus Christi radio stations were reported off the air such as KKTX-AM, KUNO-AM, KZFM-FM, KKBA-FM and KEYS-AM.

Several have since resumed operations.

Margaret Sandlin of KMKS-FM Bay City reported the station went down midday Saturday when it lost power and the station’s generator ran out of fuel. 

The station was able to resume electrical service only to experience transmitter issues.

Houston area broadcasters were prepared for the storm having laid in extra supplies for staff, securing nearby hotel rooms, stocking up on fuel, etc.

But adverse weather conditions still created problems.

In Houston, KPRC-FM’s transmitter went down because of water issues.

KJOJ-FM also reported its outage to the FCC but had restored transmission by Monday.

KHOU-TV, which has been damaged by floodwaters from nearby Buffalo Bayou in the past, was forced to evacuate its building on Sunday morning. Video of water streaming through station entry doors and flooding the first floor and a nearly new newscast set made the rounds of social media throughout the day.

At first, staff set up makeshift studio operations on the second floor of KHOU’s building but eventually the improvised set migrated operations to Houston PBS affiliate KUHT’s studios. KHOU was assisted by sister station staff and equipment lent by KENS-TV San Antonio and WFAA-TV Dallas.

At other stations, staff braved the floodwaters to get to work on Sunday.

Some arrived via power boat or kayak.

And it’s not over yet.

Staff will continue to keep stations on the air non-stop throughout the coming days to provide information to an area of Texas devastated by Harvey.

It’s what Texas broadcasters do – we live to serve our community.

Questions?  Contact TAB's Michael Schneider or call (512) 322-9944.

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