According to The Weather Underground landfalling Category 4 hurricanes are rare in the United States. There have been only 24 since 1851. Hurricane Florence is being forecast to hit the east coast later this week and will be in very select company if it manages to make landfall at Category 4 strength in North or South Carolina.
Ken Carson is the Operations Manager and Program Director for LM Communications’ 98 Rock WYBB-FM and 105-5 The Bridge WCOO-FM in Charleston, SC. We spoke to Carson last night about how he’s preparing his team and the local community for a possible direct hit.
Radio Ink: What are you hearing about where this storm is headed and where are you in that path?
Ken Carson: First of all let me make it clear that I’m not a meteorologist, however being a broadcaster in Houston, Alabama, Florida and now SC during major hurricanes has taught me a few things. The first is that nobody can accurately predict landfall of a hurricane when it’s still 70 hours away from land. With that said, Charleston, South Carolina is currently on the southern end of the latest landfall models and falls into the 50 to 60 mph wind category. Early Monday morning we were in the 30 to 40 mph wind category so as soon as the Navy meteorological command reported a jump from category 2 to a category 4 we knew this was very serious.
Radio Ink: How are you preparing to stay on the air?
Ken Carson: Our owner, Lynn Martin, (LM Communications) personally kept our stations on the air as long as possible during hurricane Hugo which devastated Charleston. Needless to say, preparation for staying on the air has been a 29-year learning experience for our company. Not long ago Lynn Martin decided to upgrade our transmitters and move them into the Hurricane proof bunker at WCBD TV, The local NBC affiliate. This state of the art facility enables us to remain on the air under the most severe weather conditions. Tuesday morning we will begin transferring our servers, consoles, microphones etc. directly to our transmitter site. We have a conference room with power supplies steps away from the actual transmitter so, with the right equipment in place, we can replicate all on-air assets without missing a beat. A big plus is sharing the televisions news department and being able to simulcast with their street teams and local emergency weather updates.
Radio Ink: If you lost power for an extended period of time, will you be able to stay on the air the entire time? How?
Ken Carson: The multiple generators at our transmitter site (the TV station complex) will keep us on the air and in the air conditioning during any weather emergency. Coffee, shrimp with grits and baby wipes will keep us civilized!
Radio Ink: What do you tell your team when something like this approaches?
Ken Carson: The same thing I tell every team of broadcasters that I have worked with. Live and local radio is and always will be the pulse of the community and the first to respond. Yes, radio stations are first responders and will continue to serve our communities during good times and bad. Remember, you can buy a radio station, a transmitter and a tower but you are granted a license by the FCC to broadcast in the public interest. I’m proud to be a radio broadcaster and realize that every day I have the opportunity to make a positive difference in peoples lives.
Radio Ink: How is the community preparing and what are you broadcasting to them to help them prepare?
Ken Carson: Our stations started preparing last Friday however the city was ignoring the storm until the governor announced the mandatory evacuations Monday afternoon. Beginning today, Tuesday, all lanes of traffic on interstate 26 will be directed west towards Columbia, South Carolina. All schools have been closed through the rest of this week and all state and government offices will be closed beginning at noon Tuesday. Our biggest concern are all of the people who have recently moved to Charleston from land locked states or communities. 54 people a day are moving here and most of them have never lived through a hurricane. Keeping that in mind, our websites contain every detail possible regarding hurricane evacuation, boarding up your house, what to expect and prepare for if you decide to stay, Where to go to fill sandbags, and the laws regarding household pets in times of natural disasters. On our social network platforms we have discussions going about where to find water and supplies as well as short cuts out of town. Each member of my broadcast team has specific responsibilities in preparing for this type of weather event and then communicating The most accurate and helpful information with our listeners. From the moment the governor’s announcement was made and until the cleanup has been completed we will be live and local 24/7.
Radio Ink: Is the community taking this seriously?
Ken Carson: Let’s just say that when people start mentioning a possible category five hurricane making landfall, even the most salty Charlestonians will heed the warning’s. Once again, the people I worry about are those that have never lived through a major hurricane and think it’s going to be a party. With this storm it’s a matter of life and death.