KSMQ-TV returns to the air - KTTC Rochester, Austin, Mason City News, Weather and Sports

KSMQ-TV returns to the air

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AUSTIN, Minn.  (KTTC) -- KSMQ-TV in Austin returned to the air at about 8 p.m. Wednesday using a temporary tower.

The station had been off the air since early Wednesday morning when its 444-foot tall broadcast tower fell to the ground during a wind storm.

The tower went down in a parking lot at Riverland Community College in Austin.

"This took out their studio to transmitter microwave link and means they are off-the-air," explained KTTC Director of Engineering Tim Morgan.  KSMQ-TV's broadcast signal is transmitted from a tower near Grand Meadow, Minnesota, and the station used the now-collapsed Austin tower to send its programming from its broadcast facility to the transmitter.

KTTC's Austin newsroom facility was also affected by the tower collapse, since ENG and skycam systems were mounted on the tower.

"I called our Master Control and they told us that we had been out but didn't know why," says Eric Olson, the President and CEO of KSMQ Television in Austin, describing the events of Wednesday morning.

The structure is engineered in such a way that when it fell, it fell at less than half its height, which proved to save any further damage to the area.

"First impressions were I was surprised," explains Olson. "I only live six blocks from here so as I was walking here I was surprised at the debris down and the trees down because I didn't think we had much of a storm. But I got here and said 'Oh my goodness'. It's just all a twisted mess."

The Austin Fire Department arrived on scene at about 8:30 AM to assess the damage and make sure no fires would be caused by the downed lines.

The estimated cost to the station will be around $10,000, but considering the circumstances, it could have been much worse.

"The fact that it stayed within its own footprint, inside its own cables and came down," explains Mickey Healey, the fire chief with the Austin Fire Department. "It could've reached, potentially, Riverland's buildings. It fell in a nice, small pattern. Everything is in tact. Roof and structure of the building are all in tact."

The Minnesota Public Television station is quickly working to pick up the pieces after Wednesdays storm, and everyone with the station knows they got away lucky.

"Even though we have insurance we will have at least 10k in costs we will be responsible for," says Olson. "As a non-profit, this presents a challenge."

Olson indicated that people can help by contributing to the KSMQ Tower Fund at any Home Federal Savings Bank or via the station's website.  Olson says insurance adjusters will arrive on site Thursday to begin assessing damage.


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