On both sides of the border, the cleanup continues from the Ice Storm of '98. Power has been restored to all but a few small corners of Ontario, New York, and northern New England, while it may be another week or more before the "Dark Triangle" south of Monreal finally gets its power back.
For broadcasters across the region, it's also been a slow return to normal. NERW visited some of the communities in Ontario and New York hit by the ice storm, and here's what we found:
As we drove east on Highway 401, the scope of the damage became more apparent. Many of the trees in the Kingston area are missing limbs, and there are still crews along many roads repairing power lines. On the air, the most obvious sign of storm damage is on the FM dial, where both CFMK (96.3) and CFLY (98.3) are operating with extremely low power, barely enough to reach the city limits. CFMK's tower on Wolfe Island, shared with CKWS (Channel 11), was toppled by the ice, while CFLY's transmitter building in Harrowsmith was hit by ice falling from that tower. CFLY and AM sister station CKLC (1380) are running a daily program every afternoon at 1 with a roundup of storm news, including community-by-community updates from local officials and the power companies. CFMK's sister station, CFFX (960), has returned to its usual oldies format. The sign outside its studio on Counter Street tells the story -- "Riders on the Storm."
NERW rode the ferry to Wolfe Island to see the CKWS site firsthand. Late on a Sunday afternoon, the property was swarming with workers. The twisted wreckage of the old 840-foot tower has been stacked in several neat piles, and tower segments for a replacement are on hand. CKWS is on the air with a very low power signal, not strong enough to make it to the cable headend serving Trenton, some 60 miles to the west.
Wolfe Island remains without power, and it was a sobering site to see the darkness cover the island at sunset as we rode back to the mainland on the ferry.
Further up the St. Lawrence River, generators continue to power the main Ottawa transmitter sites, both the Camp Fortune site where most of the big FM and TVs are located and the Rogers site where several newer TV stations are located.
Dan Mellon of CHXL (103.7) in Brockville has written a narrative of his stations' struggles to stay on the air during the storm; it's on-line on the site of sister station CKKL (93.9) Ottawa.
WTNY (790) lost a tower to the storm and is operating non-directional from one of its remaining towers in the meantime. Its programming, mixing storm updates and adult contemporary music, is being simulcast on WCIZ (93.5), which is operating with a flea-powered temporary transmitter that covers only the city of Watertown.
WATN (1240) and WTOJ (103.1) are simulcasting as well, with daytime programming that's still dominated by storm information. Sister station WWLF (106.7 Copenhagen) has returned to its usual CHR format as "The Border." The other half of the Border's usual simulcast, WBDR (102.7 Cape Vincent), remains silent due to serious power problems in that area. Cape Vincent's other station, WMHI (94.7), is also dark.
WUZZ (1410) also lost a tower and is operating non-directional for now, simulcasting country sister station WFRY (97.5). NERW wonders why the storm information heard on WATN/WTOJ wasn't put on WFRY's big signal, the only class B FM in Watertown...
Other stations heard on the air in the region included WGIX (95.3) in Governeur and WLKC (100.7) in Henderson, as well as W281AA, the 104.1 WTOJ translator in Watertown. We also heard WTOJ audio on 103.5, but it may have been just an image and not an actual signal.
Below 92 MHz, the only Watertown station now on the air is WRVJ (91.7); WJNY (90.9) and WSLJ (88.9) remain off.
To the east, we're finally hearing from some of our Vermont readers. We're told WKOL (105.1) in Plattsburgh remains silent, as does WZBZ (1070), which will have new calls when it returns to the air with a new transmitter. Owner Family Broadcasting is taking advantage of the silent period to make the call change to WDOT; the format will remain news and talk.
CBC Radio Two programs returned to CBM-FM (93.5) today as well, after an eleven-day absence as CBM-FM was used for storm coverage.
More to come in the regular NERW report on Thursday; we're still awaiting word on the fate of stations in Vermont's Northeast Kingdom and Central Vermont, not to mention the station at the eye of the storm, CFZZ (104.1) in devastated St.-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Quebec.