Hurricane Ivan knocked down WPMI-TV's broadcast tower. All that now remains is 511 feet of the station's tower.
Tim Reid, chief engineer at NBC affiliate WPMI-TV, in Mobile AL., said the station first knew it had a problem when its old Comark analog transmitter shutdown after getting a high VSWR alarm a little after midnight on September 16.
The next morning, Reid and his staff confirmed that all but 511 feet of the station’s 1700-foot broadcast tower had been knocked to the ground, effectively taking the station’s analog channel off the air for about a week. That’s how long it took for Reid and his engineering staff to secure a standby transmitter, transmission line and antenna. It was deemed more cost effective to purchase a newer (albeit temporary) transmitter that was more electrically efficient than to move the older Comark and hope it still worked after being disassembled, moved and reassembled.
The station went back on air at 866 feet on an existing 1900-foot tower located about 1.5 miles from the current site, where WPMI’s digital channel transmitter is located.
Reid said he is currently evaluating the cost and time to rebuild a new tower versus leasing space on an existing structure. The temporary system in place is operating at about 30kW. The station plans to increase that to 350kW within 30-45 days with a new full-power Acrodyne (Ai) transmitter. It could take at least 16 weeks to get the station back to operating at its full power of 5Mw.
Reid some stations helped WPMI, while others didn't. Other stations in the area experienced power outages and minor STL dish mis-alignments.