TAMARAC, FLA. — Sadly, this trip to the Sunshine State won’t involve Mickey Mouse, Harry Potter or any “toes in the sand.”
FCC Chairman Ajit Pai and Democratic Commissioner Mignon Clyburn will be in Florida on Monday (9/18) to jointly inspect the damage caused by Hurricane Irma, meet with those engaged in recovery operations, and receive updates about the ongoing efforts to restore communications services.
In comments released by the Commission Wednesday afternoon, Pai noted the serious impact on communications networks in not only Florida, but in the U.S. Virgin Islands of St. Thomas, St. Croix and St. John, which have seen devastation perhaps far worse than that of Monroe County, which is comprised of the Florida Keys and much of the southern Everglades.
“The FCC is committed to supporting recovery efforts, and I am grateful for the work that first responders, emergency personnel, and state and local partners are doing to restore service in affected areas,” Pai said.
He was also pleased that Clyburn is joining Pai on the trip to view the damage caused by Hurricane Irma and to chat with those involved in post-storm recovery efforts.
Pai invited Clyburn to join him.
“Together we will gain insight into our collective efforts to restore vital communications services,” Clyburn said. “During natural disasters such as Hurricane Irma, we are reminded of the essential role that communications services play in keeping consumers safe and informed. I look forward to continuing to work with my colleagues to ensure that the lessons learned during this visit translate into actionable steps that the Commission and industry can take to ensure that our communications networks remain resilient in the face of these powerful and dangerous storms.”
Additional details regarding their trip to Florida will be released later this week.
JVC SEES PROBLEMS IN MULTIPLE MARKETS
While RBR+TVBR has the full restoration of radio stations in the Miami-Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach markets on the FM dial, several AM radio stations as of 8pm on Sept. 12 were off the air. These included JVC Media‘s “Talk of the Palm Beaches” WSWN-AM 900, licensed to Belle Glade, Fla.
JVC Media CEO John Caracciolo told RBR+TVBR via e-mail, “We’re just getting [WSWN] online now. Trees were down around the transmitter site, and they lost power. The power is back on, and they are rebooting stuff.”
Meanwhile, power has returned to Class B WSVU-AM 960 “True Oldies” in North Palm Beach, Fla., and FM translator partners W240CI at 95.9 MHz in North Palm Beach and W295BJ at 106.9 MHz in Jupiter. But, there’s a problem.
“The STL did not come back, and it must of taken a power hit,” Caracciolo says. “A new unit is being installed now thanks to our friends at 305 Broadcast in Miami.” True Oldies is expected to be back on the air by Wednesday evening.
Meanwhile, further to the north, JVC Media has problems in Orlando and in Ocala, Fla. Caracciolo says that Class C2 Country WOTW-FM 103.1 “The Wolf” (the former home of Smooth Jazz WLOQ-FM) is back on the air after an outage, but on low power.
“We are trying to conserve fuel in the generator until power comes back on at the main and auxiliary sites,” Caracciolo says. “Ocala is still off.”
JVC Media operates a four-station cluster in the Gainesville-Ocala, Fla., area, and this includes Ocala-licensed CHR/Pop WMFQ-FM 92.9 and Dunnellon-licensed Country WXUS-FM 102.3, the two stations serving Ocala. “Generators at the transmitter are out of fuel and delivery trucks cannot access the site … if we could find any fuel. We’re really waiting on the power company here. It’s been one hell of a week.”
ALPHA, iHEART DEAL WITH DARKNESS
As of 9am Wednesday (9/13), iHeartRadio News/Talk WIOD-AM 610 in Miami — the main news and information radio station for the entire market — remained silent. Twitter posts were directing listeners to the iHeartRadio app and to WINZ-AM 940 in Miami, its temporary home. The WINZ tower is just west of Hard Rock Stadium; the WIOD tower is on the 79th Street Causeway in North Bay Village, where the station was based when owned by Cox Radio and later, Paxson Communications. It is adjacent to Sunbeam’s WSVN-7, the Fox affiliate that provided continuous storm coverage while highly audible roof rattling continued unabated for hours over the main broadcast studio.
With communication difficult across South Florida, RBR+TVBR reached out to iHeartMedia/Miami SVP/Programming Alex Tear via Twitter. He had not replied as of this writing.
Meanwhile, Alpha Media had its own challenges in West Palm Beach.
WMEN-AM 640 “Hurricane Sports”, an Alpha Media stations licensed to Royal Palm Beach, remained dark as of Tuesday night, with a Cuban station clearly audible throughout much of Boca Raton and northwest Broward County on the 640 MHz signal. Tweets updating New York Yankees fans in lieu of live play-by-play were done by WMEN throughout the evening, as WMEN is a team affiliate.
As of 11am yesterday (9/12), wireless services on the entire east coast of Florida were highly impacted by Irma. But, the worst areas were Southwest Florida (the Fort Myers-Naples DMA) and the Miami-Fort Lauderdale DMA. In Collier County, some 73% of cell towers were out. In inland Hendry County, near the city of Clewiston, 36 of 46 cell towers were out.
It is still unknown if any cellular towers in the Florida Keys are operational.
The Keys are part of Monroe County, and 89 of 108 cell tower sites were reported out as of yesterday; Monroe County also includes a portion of Southwest Florida and not just the Keys.
Three TV stations in Florida were silent as of 11am Tuesday: WVFW-LD 34 in Miami, Liberman Broadcasting‘s Estrella TV O&O; WGCU-30 in Ft. Myers-Naples, the main PBS member station in the DMA; and WSBS-22 in Key West, the flagship of Spanish Broadcasting System‘s Mega TV network.