Hurricane Ida

Radio stations across the New Orleans dial aired wall-to-wall storm coverage Sunday as Hurricane Ida lashed southeast Louisiana with storm surge, high winds and flooding rain.  Throughout the day and into the night, broadcast crews, which have been through this numerous times – including 16 years ago to the day when Hurricane Katrina pummeled the region – worked with TV and news network partners to keep residents informed and safe from destructive winds and torrential rain.

Broadcasting from downtown New Orleans, Audacy news/talk WWL – AM & FM (870, 105.3) began wall-to-wall coverage at 7am Saturday morning. Louisiana’s official FEMA station, WWL calmly reported updates, interviewed officials and carried live press conferences from Governor John Bel Edwards, Mayor LaToya Cantrell and other parish presidents, including Jefferson Parish, home to hard hit Grand Isle where there were reports of whitecaps on Highway 1 and widespread power outages early Sunday afternoon. When Hurricane Ida made landfall Sunday around noon, WWL’s wall-to-wall coverage began a cluster-wide simulcast across sister music FMs CHR WEZB-FM, classic rock WKBU-FM and AC WLMG-FM.  Its coverage also included “newsmaker interviews that drill down on the storm’s impact, traffic calls with citizens across the southeast Louisiana area who decided to evacuate and experts who can deliver sound advice for those who decided to weather the storm,” Audacy said in a statement.   

News/talk WRNO-FM took the lead for iHeartMedia in New Orleans, simulcasting continuous coverage from Gray TV’s “Fox 8” WVUE-TV on its music FMs including classic hits KVDU-FM, country WNOE-FM, hip-hop/R&B WQUE-FM and adult R&B WYLD-FM. WVUE-TV cross-promoted its availability on the iHeart stations in the market and on the iHeartRadio app. “Our clusters in New Orleans and Baton Rouge have been in wall-to-wall coverage since Saturday afternoon. In addition, special reports have been provided twice an hour along the Mississippi and Alabama coast and as far north as Jackson, Mississippi,” Chris Berry, iHeartMedia Executive VP of News/Talk Programming told Inside Radio. “In the days ahead we will continue to cover the aftermath and the cleanup, providing updates on all of our stations, and special local coverage on WODT-AM, our Black Information Network affiliate in New Orleans.”

Cumulus Media’s three New Orleans music stations simulcast continuous coverage from Hearst Television’s NBC affiliate WDSU on hot AC KKND-FM, adult R&B KMEZ-FM, modern rock WZRH-FM, and country WRKN-FM.

Well before Ida made land on Sunday, stations throughout the region were carrying preparedness coverage. For Townsquare Medias Lafayette cluster that included reminding people about what they needed to have on hand and posting online updates on the track and intensity of the storm. “Once we got into the weekend, we have been giving updates as they became available from the National Hurricane Center, and pushing that information out through our apps,” Regional Market President Brian Sines told Inside Radio. “On air all week and this weekend we have had parish officials on the air with us talking about the impact and possible scenarios, and providing updates on the storm.” Townsquare stations worked with the Louisiana News Network and provided live updates from Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards. “Our News Talk station [KPEL –AM & FM] is providing ongoing updates on conditions as they change, with officials and listener eyewitness accounts, and key updates are then aired on the remainder of our stations,” Sines added. 

FCC Activates DIRS System

Meanwhile, the Federal Communications Commission deployed staff to the affected areas to assess the post-landfall impact to communications networks and to assist in efforts to restore service. “We are coordinating daily with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Department of Homeland Security, and other government partners,” Acting Chair Jessica Rosenworcel said in a statement on Saturday. “We are also coordinating with industry on emergency preparedness and pre-positioning life-saving communications equipment.” 

On Saturday, the Commission granted waivers of some of its rules to support emergency communications during the storm. On Sunday it activated the Disaster Information Reporting System (DIRS) to track outages and update the public “In the hours and days ahead, we will do everything we can to help affected areas prepare, respond, and recover,” Rosenworcel said.

The FCC’s Operations Center is open 24/7 and posting info related to Ida HERE.

This is a developing story. Check back with Inside Radio later for updates.