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Florida TV, radio stations knocked out by Hurricane Ian

Floodwater from Hurricane Ian impacts the WINK-TV newsroom on September 28, 2022.
Floodwater from Hurricane Ian impacts the WINK-TV newsroom on September 28, 2022. (Photo by Matt Devitt/WINK-TV, Graphic by The Desk)

Six television stations and nearly two dozen radio stations are offline after Hurricane Ian brought devastating wind and rain to Florida on Wednesday.

The data was released in a report published by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) on Thursday, one day after the storm made landfall on the southwestern side of the state.

The FCC did not identify the broadcast outlets that were knocked offline due to the storm, but video footage uploaded to Facebook showed WINK-TV (Channel 11, CBS) in Fort Myers was inundated with flood water, which damaged a news studio and several other facilities at the station.

Feeds for several other stations, including Fort Myers NBC affiliate WBBH (Channel 2), were also not accessible to cable and satellite viewers for much of the day on Wednesday.

Six AM radio stations and 15 FM radio stations are also out of service, the FCC said.

Some of the outages appear to be connected to issues involving Florida’s electrical grid. More than 2 million people were without electricity as of Thursday morning, according to information collected from utilities and reported by Blue Fire Studios.

Across the state, more than a half-million cable, landline phone and Internet customers are currently disconnected from their service, up from just over 25,000 reported on Wednesday. That number is likely to grow as the FCC collects more data on the number of customers affected by the storm.

Many broadcast outlets are streaming news coverage of the storm online, but getting access to these streams is a difficult feat in parts of Florida: The FCC says around 1,550 wireless phone and data towers are offline, accounting for 10 percent of the state’s total wireless grid.

Lee County, which saw a direct hit from Hurricane Ian, has a significantly higher percentage of offline wireless phone towers compared to most of Florida, with over 65 percent of wireless towers out of service, the FCC said. The agency warned that a higher number of wireless phone customers may be unable to connect to reliable service, even if they live in an area where the wireless phone towers are still online.

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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).