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WHCU Temporarily Sidelined by Transmitter Failure

ITHACA — News/talk fans might have trouble tuning in WHCU today; the station is using its 1,000-watt nighttime transmitter site 24/7 after an early morning fire at the station’s daytime transmission tower forced the station off-air for a few hours.

Assistant program director Dave Vieser says WHCU usually never gets knocked completely off the air because “it is one of only a handful of AM stations in the United States with two different tower locations for it’s day and night operations.  The duplicity avoids problems with power outages, and typically allows continuous operations—even when one tower site is down.”

The daytime transmission site is located on Mount Pleasant, and at night, programming comes from a tower on Protts Hill.

But this morning’s event “was the rare once-in-a-million catastrophic transmission failure, which, in essence, took out both transmitters,” Vieser said.

The failure caused a fire in the transmission line at the main transmitter, which also somehow knocked out the link to the night transmitter.

Vieser was an hour into hosting WHCU’s Morning Newswatch when he was taken off the air.

“Nothing felt stranger  […] I couldn’t even tell the audience what happened, except to twitter on my Facebook page.”

Since he couldn’t do anything on the air, Vieser assisted chief engineer Jay Waggoner in establishing a temporary direct link from the studio to the Protts Hill tower.  Vieser says the station was back on the air by 9:15AM.  Even though it’s just 1,000 watts, the nighttime signal still covers most of Tompkins County.

There’s no word yet on how long it’ll take to get the primary transmitter back online.

WHCU has been promoting a live interview with Governor David Paterson, scheduled to air tomorrow morning.  Vieser says he’s determined to keep those plans intact, “even if I have to put two-thousand 9-volt batteries in my Subaru, and drive up the hill to the tower.”

Been there, done that, got the t-shirt?
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