Getting muddy not usually all in a day's work
PEOPLE who set their clock radios to wake up to Hawaii Public Radio were probably late for work yesterday, as the station was knocked off the air in the wee hours of the morning.
KHPR-FM 88.1 and its avid listeners suffered chunks of dead air, courtesy of the weather and some necessary repair work.
The problem actually had its roots in a lightning strike last Thursday at a Wiliwilinui Ridge transmitter site shared by radio and television stations. The lightning zoomed down power lines and melted a KHPR transfer switch that wound up looking "Salvador Dali-esque," said Michael Titterton, president and general manager.
"Nothing can be done to diagnose the problem until engineers are able to access the site by helicopter," said Titterton.
Aerial access in our recent soupy weather has been impossible.
As a result, when other problems occurred yesterday morning with the main transmitter, officials weren't able to switch over to the auxiliary transmitter because of the damage to the transfer switch.
Only one company on the East Coast makes the switches -- and they are custom-made, Titterton said.
"It's been being built all this week and is being shipped right now. We hope to replace it this weekend."
Still, the station had to get back on the air, and a helicopter flight was out of the question, so Production Director Jeff Ilardi volunteered to make the two-hour hike up to the transmitter building yesterday morning.
On a normal work day, Ilardi hosts "Foreword," on KHPR sister-station KIPO-FM 89.3 from 8 to 9 a.m. Monday through Friday, records concerts, produces "everything on our air that isn't live," and is the drummer for the HPR in-house blues band Jeff Said No, Titterton said.
Ilardi is an Eagle Scout, as is Listener Services Manager Gene Evans.
"Oh, it's required. (Laughs) You've got to be an Eagle Scout or super ninja turtle to get on this bus," he said.
Yesterday, Ilardi served as the eyes, legs and tool-wielding hands, albeit muddy, of broadcast engineer Cris Caughill, who talked him through getting the station back on the air via phone. The station was deliberately taken off the air awhile later so team-Ilardi-Caughill could manually switch to the auxiliary transmitter, which got the station back on the air, but at low power until additional work can be done.
"Kudos to Jeff, because it's a difficult hike," Caughill said. "On a day like this, it is truly swimming upstream." While Ilardi toiled at the site it rained cats and dogs and he told Caughill he was not looking forward to the hike back down.
Wiliwilinui Ridge "is awesome for (signal) coverage, but when the weather is bad, it gives us a real rough time, with lightning and power issues -- sheer weather punishment," said Caughill.
Either despite or because of Ilardi's Herculean effort, he had been dubbed, "The Mud Man," by his colleagues by the end of the day.
Hawaii Public Radio hopes for good weather in order to get the necessary fixes in place for maximum signal strength for its upcoming Spring pledge drive, which begins April 5. Its fundraising goal is $579,000.
Oceanic Time Warner Cable
is preparing to add a second Filipino network to its premium digital lineup. GMA Network will be available on Oceanic's previously unassigned Channel 687 somewhere between April 1 and May 30, said Alan Pollock, vice president of marketing. GMA stands for Greater Manila Area and the network has received numerous awards for its news and entertainment programs.
The start date is still being worked out, he said.
Subscribers to Oceanic's $13.95 a month Filipino package, which includes The Filipino Channel (688), can opt to receive GMA for another $10 a month, Pollock said.
"We've been wanting to get this premium channel for awhile -- and we've finally been able to work out a deal with this group," said Pollock.
is a reporter with the Star-Bulletin. Call 529-4302, fax 529-4750 or write to Erika Engle, Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 500 Ala Moana Blvd., No. 7-210, Honolulu, HI 96813. She can also be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org