KTEN Sherman, Texas, General Manager Anthony Maisel wished he was dreaming when he received a phone call at 3 a.m. Sunday that his station suffered a massive lightning strike before midnight Saturday. Panels blew off some of the racks, a majority of the control room equipment was completely fried and the motor from the station’s tower cam crashed through the station’s roof.
A master control operator was on hand when the strike happened at the NBC affiliate (DMA 161). No one was injured.
The National Lightning Detection Network said the Lockwood Broadcasting-owned station sustained a positive strike with a current peak of 39 kiloAmps. The chances of the strike happening? 100,000 to 1, according to the lightning network. This blogger, of course, was the eighth person to tell Maisel he should have purchased a lottery ticket after learning of the unfortunate news.
Since Sunday, the news team has prepared for daily news casts, although they haven’t been able to broadcast on air. Maisel said they’ve been able to get NBC and ABC programming back up, but are still trying to fill their regular newscast hours with syndicated programming. “That’s been an issue so far,” says Maisel.
Some of the prepared news shows were published online, but the strike also affected the server for playback, making it difficult to put video on their website.
“It affected everything,” says Maisel. “If lightning hits your house, it’s 5 amps. This was 390,000 amps. It was huge.”
They hope to have live news back on air by Thursday.
It’s unclear how much damage was done to the station, in terms of dollars. “It’s a lot of money,” says Maisel. “A lot.”
According to Wendell Bechtold, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service in St. Louis, most cloud-to-ground strikes are negative. Much less are what KTEN suffered: a positive strike.
“…If the cloud base becomes positive charged relative to the top of the cloud, the ground below then assumes a net negative charge, and any lighting that develops will be a positive strike,” Bechtold wrote in a blog post. ”
Positive strikes are commonly associated with severe thunderstorms and strike prior to tornado formation.
Maisel says he’s been patient and has been responding to all emails and phone calls he receives from viewers wondering when they’ll be back on the air. That hasn’t stopped many commenters online from telling him they’re tired of watching non-stop advertisements.
“Tired of watching ads, can’t wait… How much longer?” one viewer posted.
One viewer claims he saw the strike happen.
“…I was watching TV when the lightning struck. I saw a flash through the window, got up off the couch and went to the front door to check it out. It seemed as though the thunder rolled on forever. the really odd thing though was that it was only sprinkling and there was no other lightning or thunder.”
Maisel says his team of engineers are working 24/7 to get the station up and running again.