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Hurricane topples TV transmission tower, knocks station off air

Gray Television's KPLC-TV was evacuated before the transmission tower crashed through the station's studio.

Gray Television's KPLC-TV was evacuated before the transmission tower crashed through the station's studio.

(Photo: Taylor Verrico/KPLC via Twitter, Graphic: The Desk)

A hurricane that swept through portions of Louisiana this week toppled a television transmission tower, knocking the station off the air and leaving its studio in disarray.

In a message posted on its website, Lake Charles NBC affiliate KPLC-TV (Channel 7) directed viewers to watch its news coverage of Hurricane Laura online due to the absence of its over-the-air signal.

“If you’re looking for our broadcast over-the-air, you will not find it,” the message said. “But we are working hard to make sure you can continue to get the information you need on our digital platforms.”

Taylor Verrico, a sports anchor with KPLC and a sideline reporter for ESPN’s digital properties, said the transmission tower crashed through the station’s main news studio, which would have been occupied for its ongoing coverage of Hurricane Laura had it not been evacuated before the storm hit.

The transmission tower atop KPLC’s main office sends the station’s signal from its master control booth to a larger transmitter about a half-hour away.

KPLC says it doesn’t know if the main transmission tower was also damaged because its engineers have been unable to reach the site due to blocked roads.

John Ware, KPLC’s general manager, said it could take a year or longer for the station to resume normal operations.

“We will be phasing things as we get estimates on how to address the tower and make our building safe,” Ware said in a statement posted online.

It was not clear if the station would shift to broadcasting at a lower frequency or on a neighboring channel while it works to restore its services.

It is the second time a collapsed tower has triggered a terrestrial outage for KPLC in less than two decades. In 2004, transmission towers carrying KPLC’s signal and others collapsed near the town of Fenton, knocking the station off the air. Those towers collapsed less than a month after they were installed, according to story archives on KPLC’s website.

KPLC is owned by Gray Television, an Atlanta-based telecommunications company that operates more than 140 local TV stations across the country.

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About the Author:

Matthew Keys

Matthew Keys is the publisher of The Desk and reports on the business and policy matters involving the broadcast television, streaming video and radio industries. He previously worked for Thomson Reuters, Disney-ABC, Tribune Broadcasting and McNaughton Newspapers. Matthew is based in Northern California, has won numerous awards in the field of journalism, and is a member of IRE (Investigative Reporters and Editors).