Tag Archives: Hurricane Maria

Puerto Rico: AM Radio makes a comeback post-hurricane

(Source: Columbia Journalism Review)

ON SEPTEMBER 19, 2017—the day before Hurricane Maria made landfall in Puerto Rico—the evening news team at WORA-TV in the coastal city of Mayagüez broadcast its final program before shutting down the station ahead of the storm.

“If Maria was going to be the monster everyone was predicting,” says Carolina Rodriguez Plaza, the news team’s production manager, “we knew the power could be cut off for a long time. We decided to shut down the station and send everyone home.”

Plaza told her team of 12 reporters not to worry, their salaries would be paid during the downtime and their jobs would be waiting for them when broadcasting resumed. Plaza retreated to her parents’ home, where she spent the night of the hurricane watching updates about the storm on cable TV. Then, as happened in homes across Puerto Rico, the lights flickered and the power went out. Hurricane Maria’s 150-mile-per-hour winds toppled power lines and torrential rains grounded out the island’s power grid.

Desperate for news about the disaster befalling her island, Plaza turned on a battery-powered radio and found that a local radio station, WKJB 710 AM, was maintaining its broadcast. The station’s managers had learned a lesson about disaster preparedness in 1998, when Hurricane Georges blew down their radio antenna and cut off the power. Since then, staff had equipped the station with a backup power generator and a reinforced antenna that could withstand hurricane-force winds.

“Maria erased the world of journalism in Puerto Rico,” Plaza says. “It reemerged in a new form, with radio playing an important role.”[…]

Click here to read the full article at the CJR.

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NAB Delivers Radios to Hurricane-Ravished Puerto Rico

(Source: NAB Blog via Richard Langley)

https://youtu.be/NtOpsVDnJzM

I recently had the opportunity of a lifetime. I was asked by my employer – the National Association of Broadcasters – to travel to Puerto Rico to help distribute 10,000 battery-operated radios to people in hurricane-ravaged island and the Virgin Islands.

The idea for the radio hand-out stemmed from a meeting where President and CEO Gordon Smith asked: “What can NAB and our industry do to help?” NAB swung into action, purchasing, shipping and delivering the radios in just 18 days.

I had seen pictures of the devastation in Puerto Rico, but nothing compares to seeing it in person. Most of Puerto Rico remained without power and drinkable water during our visit. Even in the Capitol of San Juan, power came almost exclusively from generators that had to be refilled with fuel or diesel daily by hand, sometimes every four hours. Police directed traffic at intersections.

People wait from six to 14 hours over three days to get tarps to cover the roofs of their houses. It’s common for people to wait in line for three hours to enter grocery stores, where bottled water is sold in rationed quantities. We saw 100-year-old trees uprooted, bringing concrete sidewalks with them and toppling power lines. We saw people living in cars or in tents on the beach. Recovery in areas away from the coast, where mountains and rain forests dominate the landscape, is occurring at a snail’s pace.

[…]People in 25 Puerto Rican municipalities, plus the U.S. Virgin Islands, received radios from our shipment of 10,000 devices. Donations from NAB, the National Alliance of State Broadcasters Associations (NASBA) and multiple U.S. radio companies covered the cost of this project.[…]

Click here to read the full article at the NAB blog.

Many thank, Richard, for the tip! I’m most impressed with how quickly the NAB were able to source those radios and hand-deliver them to those in need.

At Ears To Our World, we’re in the process of doing something similar, though on a much smaller scale. We’re partnering with a Puerto Rico amateur radio club to deliver a number of self-powered radios and flashlights to those in need. If the distribution goes well, and there is still a need moving forward, we will increase the number we distribute.

By many accounts, it could still be weeks or months before electricity is fully restored to the island.

Great job, NAB!

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NAB and other broadcasters donate 10,000 shortwave radios to Puerto Rico

(Source: AP)

With no end in sight for the recovery efforts in Puerto Rico, the radio industry is putting its best foot forward to help the folks on the ground.

This week, the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB), the National Alliance of State Broadcasters Associations, and a number of U.S. broadcasters announced they would fund the donation of 10,000 battery-operated radios to Puerto Rico, with the goal of providing information for those in need.

The battery-operated radios could prove an important resource, as just 16 percent of the island currently has power weeks after Hurricane Maria caused dramatic damage.

NAB President and CEO Gordon Smith emphasized that the situation underlines radio’s role “as a lifeline to communities desperate for information and support.”[…]

Continue reading at the Associated Press website.

I’m very happy to receive this news. At Ears To Our World, we’ve been trying to find the right way to send radios to the areas in Puerto Rico that are still without power. So far, it’s been difficult as distribution lines are clogged and we don’t want to interfere with the delivery of medical supplies, clean water and other basic necessities.

Very happy the NAB has donated so many radios and I hope they can reach the people who need them in good time.

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Hurricane Damages Arecibo Radio Telescope

Arecibo Observatory

(Source: National Geographic via Eric WD8RIF)

Hurricane Damages Giant Radio Telescope—Why It Matters” at National Geographic, written by the daughter of Frank Drake, pioneer SETI investigator:

Scientists and ham radio operators have confirmed that the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico—arguably the world’s most iconic radio telescope, which has a dish stretching a thousand feet across—has come through Hurricane Maria mostly intact, but with some significant damage.

More importantly, the observatory’s staff sheltering on-site are safe, and the facility is in good enough condition to potentially serve as a local center for the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, reports Arecibo deputy director Joan Schmelz.

Because of its deep water well and generator, the observatory has been a place for those in nearby towns to gather, shower, and cook after past hurricanes. It also has an on-site helicopter landing pad, so making sure the facility is safe in general is not just of scientific importance, but is also relevant for local relief efforts.

News about the facility has been primarily coming from Arecibo telescope operator Ángel Vazquez, who managed to get to the site and start communicating via short-wave radio in the early evening of September 21.

According to initial reports, the hurricane damaged a smaller, 12-meter dish and it caused substantial damage to the main dish, including about 20 surface tiles that were knocked loose.

Also because of the storm, a 96-foot line feed antenna—which helps focus, receive, and transmit radio waves—broke in half and fell about 500 feet into the huge dish below, puncturing it in several places, says Pennsylvania State University’s Jim Breakall, who talked with Vazquez.[…]

Click here to read the full article.

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WAPA Radio: “Radio Voice of Calm in the Storm”

(Source: US News)

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (Reuters) – News anchorman Luis Penchi has slept about three hours a night since Hurricane Maria turned his radio station into one of the few sources of public information on this battered island.

Working more than 25 hours straight during the height of the devastating storm, the lay Franciscan friar and grandfather has emerged as a light in the darkness for Puerto Rican listeners trapped in a virtual telecommunications blackout.

The powerful storm knocked out electricity, internet, television and cell service for the U.S. territory’s 3.4 million people. When other radio stations went dark, WAPA 680 kept plugging, delivering a 24-hour stream of news, advice, messages and pleas for assistance from listeners desperate to connect with loved ones.

Barefoot and wearing shorts and a wooden crucifix at the San Juan station on Wednesday, the bright-eyed Penchi credited retro technology for helping WAPA power through the maelstrom, along with some divine intervention.

“I believe it was an act of God. This is the chosen station,” the 62-year-old said with laugh.

In the days and hours since the storm broke, the Spanish-language station has become a cornerstone of news, sending out bulletins across the devastated U.S. territory about relief efforts, road conditions and missing people. In the words of one of its owners, Carmen Blanco, WAPA turned into the unofficial “voice of the government” about the hurricane.

[…]Inside are echoes of an earlier age that for now is the norm in Puerto Rico. With power limited to the station’s generator, there is no air conditioning. Electronic frills have been reduced to the minimum. At the reception area, a woman wrote messages for broadcast on a typewriter.

Anchor Penchi credits such old-school resourcefulness for the station’s durability. He said WAPA stayed on the air because it had maintained its old analogue broadcasting capacity alongside its digital equipment.

Payam Heydari, an expert in radio technology at the University of California, Irvine, said basic analogue equipment tends to provide robust transmission over long distances. In comparison, he said, digital technology is highly dependent on electricity to power the relays needed to carry a signal.

“Therefore as soon as power goes down, so do the relays” on a digital signal, Heydari said.[…]

Continue reading this full article at US News and World Report…

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