“We Were Lucky,” Says Saga VP

Tom Atkins has seen a lot in his Broadcast Engineering career. What happened in Des Moines at KOEZ-FM 104.1 this past weekend was a first.

On the night of January 30th, an ice storm ripped 100 feet off the top of the antenna tower that climbs a thousand feet. Forcing the station to go to 75% power at 540 feet to remain on the air.

“I have never seen anything like this happen. I have seen towers come down, I’ve seen where the guy wires snap and half a tower comes down damaging the rest on the way down,“ said the Saga VP of Engineering, talking with Radio Ink. “In my opinion this was a stroke of luck because several bad things could have happened.”

Des Moines Chief Engineer Joseph Farrington headed out to the tower and transmitter site when he got an off air and a low transmission line pressure alarm Saturday night.

“I told him we have several options here. First if he can see any part of the tower dangling above the ground; get out of there right away. It could come down on the transmitter building and somebody could get hurt.”

That’s where lady luck played a good hand that night. The top snapped off cleanly and fell away from the transmitter building, partially burying itself 10 feet into the ice covered ground. Unfortunately the piece that snapped off housed the 10 bay ERI antenna array.

Atkins says Saga’s investigation will include getting a birds-eye view of what remains of the tower.

“From the ground it looks like the remaining structure is safe. We don’t feel there is any danger in it falling down. We are hiring a drone company to get out there in the next day or two to take a look from above.”

The investigation is going to take awhile, because the insurance company is also looking at what happened.

“Whether or not we need to get a new tower or use what remains; we don’t know at this point, and we won’t for awhile. As soon as we get the information, we’ll move on it. In the meantime, I think the current aux antenna configuration will be enough to operate and cover Des Moines.”

Atkins is thankful no one got hurt and how luck was with everyone; telling Radio Ink, “As I told my CE out there, you better go play the lottery. We were lucky!”

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