As of Monday morning, with nearly 6 million in Florida without electricity, radio stations were among few media platforms reaching residents with necessary information post-Hurricane Irma. As Inside Radio reported over the weekend, many stations were simulcasting wall-to-wall coverage across clusters and markets, while groups aligned with TV news outlets to ensure word got out over the airwaves.
Much of this continued throughout Monday, as the storm worked its way north beyond Tampa, even into Georgia. Florida’s news/talk stations largely continued to carry wall-to-wall coverage while most, but not all, music FMs returned to regular programming, punctuated with frequent news updates. As with Hurricane Harvey two weeks earlier, stations pooled resources to produce marathon broadcasts, taking listener phone calls and relaying live and local info on the hurricane including road closures, stores and gas stations that were open, bridge closings and how to notify local power companies of outages.
As The Washington Post put it, “Irma was Florida’s storm.” In the east, the hurricane’s rain bands were so wide that they caused tornadoes and flooding in Miami, on Florida’s opposite coast. In Tallahassee, forecasters warned that strong winds would continue into Monday afternoon. In Jacksonville, all the way up in Florida’s northeastern corner, the National Weather Service issued a flash flood watch. And for the first time ever, Atlanta—hundreds of miles from any coast, and more than 600 miles north of where Irma first hit the mainland—was placed under a tropical-storm warning.
Broadcasters across the state did their level best to cope with power outages and flooding. After major studio flooding knocked all of Beasley’s Ft. Myers FM stations off the air, soft AC “Sunny 106” WJPT and rock “96-1 K-Rock” WRXK-FM were back up and running by late Monday while sports “ESPN 99.3” WWCN and CHR “B-103.9” WXKB remained dark. “The studio building has some minor damage, but is in good condition otherwise,” Beasley VP of Corporate Communications, Heidi Raphael, told Inside Radio. Beasley engineers plan to start installing a new transmitter in Ft. Myers Tuesday morning. In Tampa, all of the company’s stations were on the air late Monday, including rhythmic CHR “Wild 94.1” WLLD, which was off for most of the day. While Beasley’s corporate headquarters in Naples didn’t have flooding issues, the building was being powered by a generator on Monday and had problems with some of its systems. The company’s corporate team is working remotely with hopes of having the facility operational and accessible for staff by the end of the week.
In Orlando, Cox Media Group stations also experienced some outages. The company’s four music FMs transitioned to a full-blown simulcast of “News 96.5” WDBO Sunday night at 8pm that lasted until 10am Monday morning. After helping WDBO behind the scenes during the simulcast, Cox sister station staffs had their regular morning shows up and running in-format by 10am Monday. Those stations continued to carry updates from WDBO throughout the day.
Genesis Communications, which owns three stations in Tampa Bay and three in Orlando and the Space Coast of Florida, teamed with Charter Communications’ Bay News 9 all-news cable channel to bring radio listeners coverage of Irma as it wound its way across the state over the weekend. The company’s “AM 820 News” WWBA Tampa and “AM 1060 News” WIXC on the Space Coast aired programming from news channels to add to their own local coverage into the week. The simulcast is also airing on Genesis-owned website News Talk Florida.
Likewise, in Tampa, Inside Radio observed Monday late morning that Beasley’s WiLD 94.1” WLLD was simulcasting news reports from the local ABC TV affiliate; meanwhile, iHeartMedia stations were combining forces, with urban “95.7 The Beat” WBTP and CHR WFLZ Tampa both carrying wall-to-wall coverage from news/talk sister WFLA as of late Monday morning. Also at noon Monday, iHeart’s rhythmic CHR “The Beat” WBTT (105.5) Ft. Myers continued to simulcast 24/7 news coverage from a TV station in the market.
Back on the east coast of Florida, despite being spared the worst, Hurricane Irma knocked South Florida’s only public radio station off the air Sunday afternoon. WLRN tweeted that it was no longer broadcasting at 1:22pm, according to news reports. Editorial director Alicia Zuckerman said the storm damaged the station’s transmitter, and that it was too dangerous for workers to venture outside and fix it. “Engineers are doing what they can indoors, and restored the station’s online streaming service after it also got knocked out,” she said. And then an update: The station had returned to the airwaves by late Monday morning.
Likewise, on Sunday afternoon, the Miami Marlins’ radio broadcast was reportedly off the air because of technical problems at its flagship station. Play-by-play announcer Dave Van Horne, in his 17th season with the club and 49th in the major leagues, told AP that iHeartMedia’s WINZ (940) in Miami had no feed: “I don’t remember it ever happening where we couldn’t get on the air at all,” Van Horne said. “We’ve had brief moments where we’d miss a half-inning or a couple of batters because of a technical issue, but never a whole game wiped out because it can’t be transmitted.”
Other stations were trying to return to some semblance of normalcy in Miami by Monday, even as the city’s popular Lincoln Road shopping district was inundated with three feet of water. Cox urban AC “Hot 105” WHQT provided listeners their usual “Power Morning Show,” spending the shift talking about the aftermath. At soft AC sister “Easy 93.1” WFEZ Miami, morning host Giselle Andres was doing the same. And at crosstown iHeart CHR “Y100” WHYI, morning man Elvis Duran was on site, broadcasting his syndicated show live from Miami.
Over the weekend, CBS Radio tells Inside Radio that its cluster of three Miami stations—country “Kiss 99.9” WKIS, CHR “Power 96” WPOW and sports WQAM—aired live coverage from “CBS4” WFOR-TV. In addition, on Sunday, CBS TV featured an exclusive interview with Vice President Mike Pence that was also featured on the CBS Radio Miami stations. A CBS spokesperson tells Inside Radio that the radio group helped secure the interview for listeners across the region.
Also over the weekend, CBS AC “1059 Sunny FM” WOCL Orlando took live updates from its CBS affiliate WKMG-TV, while hot AC “Mix 105.1” WOMX and CHR “102 Jamz” WQMP also aired a live TV station simulcast. On Monday, all stations were “transitioning back to local programming with frequent hurricane updates from their respective TV partners,” a spokesperson said.
As the storm now works its way beyond Florida, Raycom Media ABC affiliate WTVM in Columbus, GA was getting prepared for Irma. The station notified viewers that “if for some reason you lose power and are unable to watch WTVM News Leader 9 on-air, online or on mobile,” the television station would be simulcasting Irma coverage on iHeart’s six-station cluster in the market: classic country “94.7 The Legend” WHAL, “News Radio 540” WDAK, R&B “98.3 The Beat” WBFA, urban AC “Magic 101.3” WAGH, “Rock 103” WVRK and country “South 106.1” WSTH.
Radio Transitions To Relief Efforts
And with widespread damage already reported across so much of Florida, radio is already beginning to stage relief efforts—even as they continue for victims of Hurricane Harvey—much through the American Red Cross, which will benefit those affected by both natural disasters.
The Salem Radio Network—which has raised $401,844 in emergency relief for victims of Harvey in Texas—has partnered with non-profit relief organization Save the Children to send life-saving emergency supplies to children and families throughout Florida.
Lou Dobbs, host of the network’s “Lou Dobbs Financial Reports” and “Lou Dobbs Tonight” on the Fox Business Network, is lending personal support to the campaign with messages on Salem’s nationally syndicated talk shows hosted by Mike Gallagher, Dennis Prager and Larry Elder. In addition, Sam Malone, morning host of “AM 1070 The Answer” KNTH Houston, is thanking listeners for relief in his city, adding to his recorded message, “Houston is still recovering—and it’ll take years to get us back on our feet completely. But now another hurricane, Irma, has devastated the state of Florida, so today, I want to ask a personal favor and turn to you once more for your help on behalf of our fellow Americans in Florida.”
Meanwhile, the #LoveUp Foundation from Premiere Networks-syndicated “Johnjay and Rich Show” presented the American Red Cross with a check for $50,000 to benefit hurricane relief efforts. Last week, the hosts invited listeners nationally to purchase #LoveUp T-shirts with all proceeds benefitting victims of Harvey—and now Irma. The #LoveUp Foundation also contributed additional funds to achieve the $50,000 total donation.
“While the #LoveUp Foundation focuses on helping children in our foster care system, we could not ignore the national tragedy of the hurricane devastation in Texas and now in Florida and the East Coast,” said Kristin Hower, executive director of the #LoveUp Foundation. Added Johnjay Van Es, cohost of “The Johnjay & Rich Show,” “We know there are so many families who are displaced as a result of the hurricane devastation. Our hope is that this donation will at least help make a dent in the recovery process.”
And in Denver, Bonneville country KYGO (98.5) is teaming with artists Chris Young and Jason Aldean to collect supply donations to send to areas in Texas affected by Harvey. Young has donated one of his tour semi-trucks to be filled with supplies and driven from Denver to Texas. KYGO will be collecting donations on Friday, Sept. 15 at Pepsi Center in Downtown Denver, before a concert by the pair. In addition, KYGO personalities will be onsite at Pepsi Center all day broadcasting live and collecting donations.