Engineers found a temporary solution for KQSK 97.5FM after high winds and ice caused a tower southwest of Chadron to collapse last weekend.
The top five sections of the 500-foot tower fell around 1:30 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 30, causing a loss of signal for Double Q Country KQSK-FM, as well as several agencies and organizations that lease space on the tower for broadcast equipment.
“We are working through this process as quickly as possible, and we will be rebuilding a newer, better radio tower at the current site just south of Chadron,” said General Manager Olivia Hasenauer. “In the interim, we do have a temporary antenna and transmitter for KQSK and are excited to have the 97.5FM signal back on the airwaves. It will be an exhilarating 2020 when we erect the new 500-foot tower for not only our company and team, but also our advertisers and listeners.”
Engineers from Eagle Radio are working with organizations including the Dawes County Sheriff's Office, NOAA, Northwest Rural Public Power District and the Chadron Amateur Radio Club to restore broadcast capabilities.
“We have a temporary tower location established in Chadron and now the majority population of Dawes County can hear Double Q Country on 97.5,” said Kevin Wagner, Eagle’s chief engineer of radio operations. “Serving Chadron and Dawes County listeners has been our priority and will continue to be our priority in 2020.”
The tower, located at 210 McGannon Road approximately 15 miles southwest of Chadron, was constructed between Sept. 9, 1979, and July 9, 1980.
Bill Mokry of the National Weather Service in Cheyenne said the transmitters used to feed most of northwest Nebraska NOAA weather radios were located on the fallen tower, including Dawes, Sioux, Box Butte and some counties in southwest South Dakota.
He said his office is working with the sister weather station in Rapid City, S.D., to use their transmitters to cover areas that overlap with the Cheyenne region.
"There will be at least some coverage ... in a good portion of the northern half of Dawes and northern portion of Sioux," Mokry said, noting there is no definitive timeline on when that backup plan will be launched. "We're still in the process of ... finalizing that, and we'll have an official press release once that's up and running."
He urged residents in areas without coverage to seek information normally broadcast on the NOAA radios via other sources — AM/FM radio, television, online and via smartphone apps. Smartphones within range of a cell signal will continue to receive severe weather alerts via their carrier.
The good news? The weather is expected to remain relatively calm through the next several days as temperatures rise above freezing and the region begins to dig out from the storm that brought 14 inches of snow to the Chadron area.
It was that weekend storm front that caused the stress on the tower, leading to the collapse.
"The Chadron area was dealing with dense freezing fog prior to high winds .. leading to frost buildup. With those 50 mph wind gusts or stronger came roaring through the area, it put a lot of stress on the tower," Mokry said. "Fourteen inches plus howling 50 mph wind It's going to do some damage."