Big Island broadcasters brace for storm
RADIO stations on the Big Island busied themselves getting hurricane-related updates to the public yesterday and last night -- after Monday night's insult-to-injury earthquake updates were done.
"We were running two different Civil Defense messages," said Jeanine Atebara, general manager of the eight island stations owned by Maui-based Pacific Radio Group Inc.
"Both the Hilo studios and our Kona studios are being manned 24/7 so we can go around the clock" to get information out, she said.
PRG's eight stations, divided between the Hilo and Kona sides of the island, provide four program streams.
That is pretty much the radio business model for larger broadcasters on the Big Island, where factors such as topography prevent islandwide reach by a single signal.
Studios in Kona and Hilo are also employed by Hilo-based New West Broadcasting Corp., which, as with PRG, can mean the need for multiple sets of back-up power in case of electrical outage.
New West Vice President and General Manager Chris Leonard had a 50-kilowatt generator installed after the October earthquake, to power all three Hilo stations. He also has short-term back-up power for his Kona signal.
"Hopefully we don't have to rely on it," he said, but was en route to confer with Civil Defense officials about the stations' availability when reached yesterday afternoon.
His cross-island staff also spent yesterday relaying emergency information, news about school and business closings and updates about where gas and other supplies were available in advance of the slogging Flossie's wrath.
Hilo Broadcasting LLC's KHBC-AM 1060 began simulcasting on KHWI-FM 92.7, also in Hilo, on Thursday. The latter station belongs to Idaho-based Parrott Broadcasting LP, which recently bought the previously silent station.
It's not just for Flossie, though. "We're working together and we envision it to be permanent," said Hilo Broadcasting owner Buddy Gordon.
Program and Production Director Brad Freeman was monitoring information from official sources including images of the storm on the National Weather Service Web site.
One bit of news came in from Hawaii Electric Light Co. during his interview with TheBuzz, reporting that the utility's emergency phone number was out of service, instructing callers to use a different number.
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