HUNTINGTON, W.Va. – Mike Kirtner, owner of Kindred Communications in Huntington, was having lunch on Wednesday when he got a call from his engineer.
“He said I have some bad news. The worst thing I could probably tell you is our tower is laying on the ground,” Kirtner recalled. “I told him, ‘Yeah, that’s probably the topper of the day.'”
A storm which left thousands without power across southern West Virginia rolled into Huntington from Kentucky and Ohio atop an ominous series of clouds. The storm packed heavy, driving rain and vicious wind.
“We talked to a meteorologist and they were saying the gusts could have been 70 to 100 miles an hour,” Kirtner said. “The manufacturer said no tower could take a wind burst like that at that kind of height.”
The tower is 1,500 feet above average terrain and had another 400 of height. The tower was constructed in 1999 and held the transmitter of 92.7 The Planet and 1340 AM WCMI which is licensed to Ashland, Kentucky.
Kirtner’s company ironically was a week away from completing an 18-month project which moved their entire broadcasting facility to a new location. The project has now been extended.
“They said it will take five weeks to have the tower manufactured and I figure it will be two months to have it back up,” Kirtner said. “The good news is we have a backup and we can keep the radio stations on the air.”
The 1999 construction was an upgrade from the old tower on the same site. Kirtner said amazingly it came down too when the newer tower fell on it as it toppled.
“It’s one of those things as you get older, and I’ve been doing this a long time, you look at it as just one more thing you’ve got to deal with,” he said. “I could get mad, throw things, fuss and fight, but that’s not going to get that tower built back.”