KSMQ station operating again

Published 11:03 am Thursday, September 6, 2012

A portion of a 440-foot transmitter tower lies draped over a small building near the Riverland Community College west building Wednesday morning. The tower came down during the severe storms that swept through Wednesday between midnight and 1 a.m. Eric Johnson/photodesk@austindailyherald.com

Austin KSMQ TV employees had a hectic day Wednesday after a storm toppled the station’s broadcast tower early that morning; however, the station is now back on the air.

While the tower itself still lies in shambles, the station was able to get back up and running at 7:58 p.m. thanks to the help of other local broadcast stations.

“We had great cooperation with local broadcasters,” Eric Olson, KSMQ president and CEO, said Wednesday afternoon before the station was again operational. The fiasco was like a mini TV reunion for Olson and other local TV executives, many who have not seen each other in years. Initially, Olson and others thought it could be two weeks before KSMQ would be operational, so much of the day was spent collaborating with other stations on a solution.

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“Our chief engineer, Tim Gassmann, got together with a colleague at KTTC TV,” Olson said.

The two worked together to come up with an impromptu solution they thought stood a chance of working. Wednesday night, a worker climbed to the roof of the station and set up an old microwave dish to point at one of the station’s towers near Grand Meadow.

KSMQ then contacted an Oklahoma-based crew of tower technicians in the area who agreed to turn the tower’s receiver so it would pick up the station’s signal.

“We’re using that tower for our primary broadcasting at the moment,” Olson said, and added he was impressed the staff could work something out. “It just shows how much people power we have here in Austin.”

Weeks or months could pass before a new tower is installed in the spot where the destroyed one was. Insurance investigators are coming from the East Coast today to examine the damage, which Olson said will be covered.

But while the TV signal is back up, the quick fix does not restore service for other clients using the tower, such as wireless providers. Some may wheel in portable towers, Olson said, though he’s unaware as to whether that will happen.

Though this sort of event has inevitably happened to others in the TV industry, Olson has never experienced it.

“I’ve never experienced this before,” he said about working 25 years in television.

The tower, which fell between midnight and 1 a.m., partially fell on a building housing its power equipment. KSMQ is waiting for insurance adjusters to determine if a part of the structure was faulty, what the extent of the damage is and how much will be covered. Off the bat KSMQ must pay a $5,000 deductible, and Olson added the whole ordeal is happening during KSMQ’s biggest fundraising month. What is fortunate, however, is that nobody was injured.

“We’re just so thankful that it happened at night when nobody is around,” Olson said.

A donation fund for a new KSMQ tower has been established at all local Home Federal Savings banks.


—Kevin Coss contributed to this report.