07.15.2003 12:00 PM
Omaha station loses tower during HDTV upgrade work

The 1,200-foot broadcast tower at KETV in Omaha, Neb., collapsed Friday, July 4, at about 11:09 p.m.

The tower, which was undergoing a retrofit with a new Dielectric antenna to allow the station to begin HDTV transmission, collapsed in a populated section of the city. No one was injured, and the only property damaged was to KETV’s transmission facility.

According to station chief engineer Warren Behrens, in the days leading up to the collapse workers had removed the station’s existing RCA antenna and had replaced an antenna mounting plate at the top of the tower to accommodate the new Dielectric antenna. To replace the mounting plate, workers on Thursday, July 3, removed guy wires from the top of the tower and replaced them with temporary wires attached below the mounting plate, he said.

Winds on July 3 and July 4 during the day prevented installation of the new antenna. Work was scheduled to resume on Saturday, July 5. At the time of the collapse, Behrens said, winds were blowing at 9 miles per hour.

Currently, the station is broadcasting from it auxiliary tower. Built in 1957, the 512-foot tower holds a bat-wing antenna. A Harris Platinum 10kW transmitter delivers about 47,000 watts ERP through the antenna. “I’m looking into adding another amplifier cabinet to kick up the signal and provide system redundancy,” said Behrens.

It’s too soon to estimate when a replacement for the collapsed tower can be erected, he said, and Behrens has more pressing concerns. A piece of the collapsed tower landed on the roof of the transmission facility causing structural damage. A temporary repair to the roof failed to prevent rain from leaking in to two Harris transmitters. Behrens is supervising repairs to correct the problem.

The impact of the collapse transcends the physical damage for Behrens. “The first emotion when you come out to the transmitter site is disbelief,” he said. “I still can’t believe the tower came down, and the second emotion is that all the work that went into the DTV transmitter facility is gone.”

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