Hurricane Irene disables two WUNC radio transmitters in N.C.

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WUNC radio in Chapel Hill, N.C., is coping with signal loss at two transmitter sites due to Hurricane Irene: WBUX in Buxton, N.C., is located on the Outer Banks, just off Cape Hatteras; and WURI is at Manteo, N.C., on Roanoke Island, between the mainland and barrier islands. “We cannot even call the transmitters because the phones are out” as of Monday (Aug. 29) morning, Nandini Sen, WUNC director of technologies and engineering, told Current. “We’re just waiting. In the meantime we’re in touch with emergency personnel to figure out when can come in.” Highway 12 south of Rodanthe, where Buxton is located, “looks like it’s part of the ocean” due to flooding, Sen said. “We don’t even have a visual of the site. It’s completely cut off. We’d have to go in by boat. Right now they’re only allowing emergency personnel in.” The station’s main transmitter in Columbia is fine; it covers Manteo and nearly all of Buxton. Also, WRQM in Rocky Mount lost electricity early Saturday, Sen said, and is still running on a generator.

UPDATE: As of 2:45 p.m. Monday, the station is broadcasting intermittently from WBUX.

UNC-TV, also in Chapel Hill, “never lost a signal, although we had to use emergency generators for power at four transmitter sites and two translator sites,” reports spokesman Steve Volstad. UNC runs 12 transmitters and 23 translators. “We carry a pool feed for all North Carolina broadcasters of the official briefings from the governor’s emergency operations center, so that made it especially important for us to keep operating — which we did,” he added.

Vermont also was hit hard by flooding. Everyone at Vermont Public Radio in Colchester “is safe and sound,” spokesman Brendan McKinney said, “although a few employees are home today dealing with flooding to their home and/or community.” One of the station’s classical frequencies in the southern part of the state is down due to a power issue but otherwise, signals are normal. “We are quite lucky, since the damage was so widespread and we have so many broadcast sites across the state,” he said.

A few blocks away, Ann Curran at Vermont Public Television also said it was “very fortunate” to escape damage, and didn’t lose signal or power.