Radio stations knocked down, get up again with help from the industry

This Manitoulin Transport truck left the road while travelling east on Highway 540 just before Aundeck Omni Kaning last Wednesday. It knocked out a hydro pole that caused a power surge and an hours-long outage while also leaving live wires strewn on the roadway. The power surge destroyed the transmission station of Great Lakes Country 103 and Hits 100. No one was injured in the crash.

MCLEAN’S MOUNTAIN – “Thank God we’re well-connected in the industry,” said an obviously weary Craig Timmermans, co-owner of the Great Lakes Country 103 and Hits 100 radio stations.  Following a single motor vehicle accident that took place on Wednesday afternoon of last week, a downed hydro pole caused power outages across Manitoulin and a huge power surge that took out the radio stations’ transmitters—the devices that send out the radio signals—and left them off the air, at least temporarily.

Mr. Timmermans said he was in their Water Street location in downtown Little Current when his wife, and co-owner, Kelly Timmermans said “we’re off the air.”

Mr. Timmermans said he wasn’t surprised as the power had flickered but thought his McLean’s Mountain generator would soon kick on and bring the transmitters back to life, but minutes passed and still nothing happened.

Mr. Timmermans soon hopped in his truck and headed to McLean’s Mountain and the site of his transmitters and what he found could only be described as devastating. The generator was running but the breakers had all popped, the acrid smell of smoke hung in the air and when he tried to re-set the breaker, flames shot out of one of the transmitters.

“I couldn’t believe the catastrophic damage,” he shared.

The Timmermans had purchased an industrial surge protector, but it was no match for the voltage that flowed into his transmitters. He explained that surge protectors are great for acts of God like lightning, which last only a fraction of a second, but what his transmitters felt was over three seconds of over 1,000 volts of power.

“It’s something I never thought I’d see,” he added.

Mr. Timmermans immediately got on his phone and began calling fellow radio stations in the region and eventually came up with two surplus transmitters from stations in Sturgeon Falls and Sudbury that he was welcome to use. Later that day, radio host Sylvain Boucher drove to Sudbury to pick one of them up, a 1,000-watt transmitter that would serve to replace the 10,000-watt one that runs Great Lakes Country. Hits 100 is now operating at 16 watts compared to its usual 5,000 watts.

To add insult to injury, the wind turbines the Timmermans use to help power the stations and their transmitters were also disabled.

Mr. Timmermans said he is in the process of ordering the two new transmitters—at a very hefty price tag—which will take two weeks to build, a few days for shipping and then at least one day for Mr. Timmermans to install. Sadly, the couple’s insurance did not cover the damage. Power surge insurance, for those who do not know, is a new type of coverage. Mr. Timmermans believes the amount of severe weather events that are occurring has meant that insurance companies are seeing a rise in damages caused by surges, and so power surge insurance was born.

Remarkably, it was less than 24 hours before Great Lakes Country was back on the air, and not long after for Hits 100.

“That’s the nice thing about the industry, people helping each other out,” Mr. Timmermans said. “We’ve had lots of emails throughout the industry with people, artists and stations sending their well-wishes, and right across Canada.”

Mr. Timmermans said he and his partner have remained calm throughout. “You pretty much need to stay calm and deal with it,” he said matter-of-factly.

The driver involved in the Wednesday accident, who was operating a Manitoulin Transport tractor-trailer, was charged with careless driving.