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1999 Duluth Ice Storm

On the weekend of April 3 and 4, 1999, a combination of precipitation, wind, and cool temperatures caused broadcast towers in Duluth to collect more ice than usual. The most severe problems were at KBJR's site. At about 5:25 p.m. Sunday (4/4), ice chunks broke from KBJR's tower and crashed through the transmitter building's roof. Water had pooled on the roof and gushed into the building, getting the equipment wet. All of the equipment was turned off; the area was eventually evacuated and blocked off because of the danger of falling ice and electrical shock. KBJR also housed broadcast equipment for WHSA/89.9, KDNI/90.5, KUWS/91.3, and WSCN/100.5. Pictures of the site taken on Tuesday, April 6, are available here.

Several other stations were also affected by the weather. Here's a summary of how each station was affected:

KBJR/6 was off the air for a month and returned to the air at low power in May, using a temporary antenna on WDIO's tower. During April, KBJR provided most of its regular programming on cable systems in Duluth and Superior, without commercials. KBJR's newscasts were also broadcast on WDSE/8. KBJR's tower has been declared structurally unsound because of damage caused by the ice. It is designed to collapse in corkscrew fashion, and a quote from Bob Wilmers in the News-Tribune seems to indicate that the tower started to collapse but then returned (mostly) to its original position. The tower will most likely be taken down and replaced. KBJR plans to move into a new building in Canal Park in June, which will replace the Superior Street building that was destroyed by fire in December 1997.

WDSE/8 suffered damage to its antenna from falling ice on April 6. A temporary antenna was borrowed from WDIO/10. Ironically, it's the same temporary antenna that WDIO used when its tower was brought down by ice in 1991.

WHSA/89.9 returned to the air on Monday, April 5, about 24 hours after leaving the air. WHSA's transmitter is south of Brule (WI); the problem was that WHSA couldn't receive any program feeds because the Studio-Transmitter Link (STL) from Wisconsin Public Radio's Superior studio to the transmitter site used equipment in the KBJR building. For a few weeks, WHSA received a relay of WHRM/90.9 (Wausau) via the secondary audio program of Wisconsin Public Television's WLEF/36 (Park Falls). The connection to the Superior studio was restored on Friday, April 23.

KDNI/90.5 returned to the air on Saturday, April 10, operating at about 250 Watts. KDNI's transmitter was located in the KBJR building, and KDNI had been off the air since Sunday, April 4.

KUWS/91.3 also had its transmitter in KBJR's building, and it was destroyed as well. KUWS returned to the air the day after the damage at KBJR's site, using temporary transmitters at its UW-Superior studios. On Friday, April 23, a new temporary transmitter and antenna were istalled at KRBR's site, getting the station's power up to about 2kW. As of May 5, KUWS is still at 2kW.

KDNW/97.3 was knocked off the air when ice stripped the studio-transmitter receiving dish off the tower, which is shared with WSCD/92.9. KDNW returned to the air on Wednesday, April 7.

WSCN/100.5 was the third radio station with its transmitter located in KBJR's building. It was off the air from through Tuesday, April 13, when it returned at about 1kW.

KZIO/104.3 was off from at least Sunday, April 4, to Thursday, April 8. The reason for the outage is unknown.

For more information, check KBJR, KUWS, the Duluth News-Tribune, and the Ashland Daily Press. Also, check out "Final Edition" in RealAudio © at KUWS (4/9 and 4/16 shows).

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