When Lightning Strikes

On Friday, May 30, my local community radio station, WEFT, suffered a lightning strike to its antenna tower. Although the tower’s lightning protection system protected part of the airchain, it did not save it all: a critical piece of our 10,000-watt transmitter’s innards got fried. Upon inspection, there also appeared to be water damage, with “debris” found inside the transmitter itself. Repairs have been unsuccessful.
Regionally, the Midwest is suffering from a particularly rough patch of severe weather; WEFT is but one of many casualties to Mother Nature this summer. Typically, the weather extremes is one of the things that makes living here fun.
For eight long days, WEFT was off the air. Thanks to some charity, the station is back – broadcasting with a borrowed 50-watt exciter. As a consequence, our 27 year-old community radio station is now broadcasting with half the power of its newer sibling across town.
This weekend, WEFT will install a rented 1-kilowatt transmitter. That will give the station 10% of its effective radiated power. Hopefully, at least, we’ll be able to hear our air signal in the main studio again.
While the station is, in many respects, a community institution, it (like many other non-profit, volunteer-driven organizations) lives on the fiscal edge, just like the rest of America. Replacement of WEFT’s transmitter was something we didn’t budget for, and that expense is expected to be in the tens of thousands of dollars. Pledge drives are no picnic in a recessed economy, and they’re 10 times more difficult when you’re speaking at essentially 1/10th the volume.
Fortunately, we’ve got the Internets, but I doubt it will be enough. WEFT’s engineering team and board of directors meet next week to figure out where we go from here.