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Monday, May 4, 2015

Tornado Can't Stop KOKC


At the end of March, an EF-1 tornado ripped through Moore, OK. This violent storm torn down two of the three radio towers of Tyler Media's KOKC-AM 1520, and broke the third tower in half (see picture above). Efforts continue to bring the towers back, but in the meantime, KOKC is still heard in a few different ways throughout Oklahoma City.

The towers had been standing unharmed for nearly 70 years, surviving close calls with many past storms, including the infamous May 2013 EF-5 tornado.

They were built in 1948 and began transmitting AM radio waves the following year. No other radio stations, television stations, or cell providers were using these towers -- only KOKC.

When the tornado first struck the towers, KOKC was taken off the air for a few hours. The station's engineering staff then redirected KOKC's signal to sister-station KEBC-AM 1560, as well as to KOMO-HD3, which is simulcast on the company's FM translator at 103.1.

The one tower that had its top half hanging (which the staff nicknamed the dangling chad) was secured within a few days, and returned. It was able to begin broadcasting at 10 watts. That is a far cry from KOKC's normal 50,000 watts, but it was better than silence. Programming continued to be simulcast on the other AM station and the FM translator, as well.

After about a week, the station stopped using the damaged tower to take it down, and instead use a temporary one. Top Hand Tower erected an emergency 190' tower (see picture below), which KOCK engineers Randy Mullinax and Mike Fields configured and tuned a new matching network. This took just over four days to accomplish. At this time, the station is still using the temporary tower, broadcasting at 10 watts.

Going forward, the plan is to rebuild all three towers. Tyler Media continues researching the best options for the company, trying to determine if the new towers will be built on the current site or moved to a new site in the area.

The station launched in 1922 as KFJF, became KOMA in 1932, and finally KOKC on 2004.

The hard work and determination of Tyler Media and its engineers has kept this historic station going, despite Mother Nature's attempt at shutting it down.

One of KOKC's three downed towers next to its temporary transmitter.

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