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Pre-planning, dedication kept WWL-TV on the air throughout Hurricane Katrina

Testifying at an FCC field hearing in Atlanta Sept 15 on Hurricane Katrina recovery efforts, Belo vice president/Capital Bureau David Duitch attributed the ability of WWL-TV to stay on the air to pre-planning and the dedication of the station’s employees.

When it became apparent that New Orleans was in the crosshairs of the storm, the Belo-owned station went wall to wall for days from Aug. 27 until Sept. 6 with hurricane coverage — all but the first few hours commercial free.

WWL originated coverage from four different facilities over the first five days of the disaster. In 2003, the station established a plan with Louisiana State University to use its broadcast facilities during such an emergency.

Additionally, in 1999 when the station replaced its transmission facilities for the DTV conversion, WWL built its transmitter facility to withstand a Category 5 hurricane at a location 18 feet above sea level in Gretna, LA. The facility was built with an emergency broadcast facility as well.

“For much of the first few days, live coverage switched between LSU, the transmitter site and our primary facility in the French Quarter, which was habitable until the flooding began,” Duitch said.

By Aug. 31, the station made arrangements to broadcast from the larger facility of Louisiana Public Broadcasting's KLPB-TV in Baton Rouge.

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