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Storm takes out STL; general manager vows to get station back on air

A low-power television station (LPTV) in West Plains, MO, is off-air after a severe thunderstorm July 11 knocked down the tower used for its microwave studio-to-transmitter (STL) link.

The studio of Channel 38 went dark at about 11 p.m. Saturday night as the storm blew through, said Dan Duncan, general manager and one of the owners of the Christian television station. No one was injured in the incident.

“The violence of the storm was quite extreme with intense rain, wind and lightning,” he said. “All the power went off, and at that point, we knew were off-air.” Strong winds knocked down the station’s newly installed 85ft STL tower, and a lightning strike at or near Channel 38 fried some broadcast equipment, he added. “It was pretty disheartening when I saw the damage,” he said.

Channel 38, the only television station between Springfield, MO, and Jonesboro, AR, had used the STL tower for only 11 days before the storm struck. A recent move to a new studio had extended the distance between the studio and the station’s transmitter, requiring a significant increase in what the station spent on the fiber link, said Duncan. The point-to-point microwave STL offered a more economical solution, he said.

Although the station is located in an area with periodic tornado activity, “one freak storm” isn’t enough to convince Duncan to revert to using fiber-optic cable for the link, said Duncan.

“The tower and STL were bought and paid for by the local people of West Plains with their donations,” said Duncan. “The fact that it was paid for by them makes me all the more determined to get back on-air and fulfill our purpose.”

Work to repair the damage is expected to be completed within two weeks, said Duncan.

Phil Kurz is a contributing editor to TV Tech. He has written about TV and video technology for more than 30 years and served as editor of three leading industry magazines. He earned a Bachelor of Journalism and a Master’s Degree in Journalism from the University of Missouri-Columbia School of Journalism.