Springfield Tornado & Media report
Wed Jun 8 16:23:09 EDT 2011
The tornado cut a swath west to east, about 40 miles. Most of the real
destruction was about 1/4 to 1/2 mile wide, but there was an area of lesser
damage -- treees down, etc--that I've seen, of over a mile wide in places.
It damaged several homes on the north side of our town (Hampden), and many
more in Wilbraham and Monson nearby.
All afternoon, I was at work, listening to WDRC-FM here in Hampden, near the
state line. I heard the Hampden police on the scanner, say they sighted a
funnel cloud out near Springfield when they were up a the hill looking that
way. That's what tipped me off.
Around 5pm, after the tornado was passing 2-3 miles north of here. We could
see the swirling dark clouds going by. After it the clouds went east from
here, I checked WHYN AM and it was still running Howie Carr. Then around
5:25, the power went out (All of Hampden/Wilbraham/Monson/E.Longmeadow was
out of power for at least 31 hrs) and we didn't tune in to radio til after
7pm and by then, WHYN had the morning host and their only newsman (for 4
stations) on with a callin and tornado info program. Clear Channel, while
claiming WHYN as the News and Informatiuon leader, is far from a real news
and information operation. Except for mornings before 9am, they appear to be
a mostly hands off, let the computer run the station operation. My hat's off
to the WHYN morning crew, news chief (of a 1 man operations) and on-air and
engineering employees of WHYN-AM-FM & WRNX and WPKX that came in to do
tornado coverage and to keep the 4 stations on the air--they were great. But
the station owners get the full-of-baloney award for their claims and then
lack of performance. I went around the dial and heard music or commercials
on most of the other stations. The TV stations--22, spfld 3, 40-- had much
better coverage that started earlier than radio. But not many folks had TV
with all the power out in affected and nearby areas.
Ch. 22 was good and the new (Springfield) Ch. 3 was good, considering the
small size of their operation. Probably, many of you have seen some of the
tornado video from this area. The segment with the tornado in the
Connecticut River, and the river water swirling and sucking up into the air,
with the tornado crossing the Memorial Bridge is a particularly vivid video.
One real problem is that, the powers that be, separated the Springfield and
Hartford Radio/TV markets. Springfield is 26 miles from Hartford, center
city to center city. It's like Lowell/Lawrence or Framingham/Natick having
completely separate Radio/TV markets from Boston. It just doesn't and for
the ex; would not serve the public well.(Yet, a city like Worcester, being
45 miles away from Boston, may have actually benefited from separate market
designation) Years ago there was much cross-coverage, but that has really
declined. Most of the Hartford stations are *still* local coverage in
Springfield, and vice versa, so Springfield listeners may or may not be
aware of which market their station is in. I'm guilty of listening to
WDRC-FM most of the time and heard no tornado warning there. I've got to
think that years ago we would have heard a Springfield warning on 'DRC. On
top of that, the Bradley Field NWS office was shut down years ago. From
their records that I've seen, They sent out a tornado warning around 1:30pm.
I did not see a record of NWS of them actually reporting a tornado in
progress. Maybe someone of the list has information if their was actually
such a report.
I had (the typical) trouble with reception on Ch. 22 and Ch. 40. Ch 3,
Springfield's digital signal comes from the mother station--Ch 3 in
Hartford. And. its' a better signal; than any of the Springfield stations
here in Hampden.
Unlike flat areas of the country, the new digital TV works poorly in hilly
areas like New England. They really need to give the digital stations more
power--an ongoing debate that's had the FCC make some, but not nearly
enough, power changes since digital inception.
Note to the FCC: You've probably already heard this many times and made some
adjustments of the power limits, but 15K watts on Ch 11 does not equal
1000K on Channel 20 or 30. Many, many folks in Western Mass in hilly areas
outside of Springfield or Holyoke have lost their TV reception since digital
changeover. There's about a 40-50 mile wide swath between Springfield and
Boston where TV reception for the average non-technical TV viewer is almost
impossible. Get with it and let the stations increase their power. Yes, they
might interfere with each other a little bit more in a few places, but the
net result will be many more citizens served.
The obvious problem is still evident when most of the area is out of
power--Many folks have a battery operated AM-FM radio,
but very few folks have a battery operated digital TV-(yet). (Well, I have
one, but I had not charged the battery for 6 months. It still worked for 2
hours!) Small, battery operated digital TV's are starting to become more
available, so it might be a good time to get one now that prices have gone
down to $50-$100. Still, a digital battery operated TV will not likely work
for more than 2-3 hours on its' rechargeable battery, and, I haven't seen a
unit that takes regular (ex: C or D) batteries. So, radio is really the only
choice for emergencies lasting more than a couple of hours.
Boston area listeners are lucky to have WBZ AM. They had excellent
coverage, sending at least 2 reporters out here. WBZ's continuing coverage
was much bettwe than WHYN which, fairly soon, went back to the
Beck-Rush-Savage propaganda. (Not intending to target the R-winger, as the
Left wingers have an ewqual amount of propaganda) The Hartford TV stations
(3-30-61) did a good job, considering they are "out of market". Even New
York's WCBS AM 880 had a reporter in Springfield. (WCBS AM and WBZ AM have,
all things considered, about equal daytime signal strength in
Springfield--WCBS is better at night--that's been the case since 1962, when
WBZA shut off)
The bottom line is that, when this type of emergency happens, Power is out,
Internet and Cable TV are going to be out, and over the air TV will probably
never be the best way to get much emergency coverage to almost all those
affected, . Over the air RADIO is the only medium that CAN reliably do the
job in an emergency, but, needs to do a lot better job than it did in
Western Mass. last week. It would not be a bad idea for WBZ to similcast on
one of the AM's here in Springfield. They have the proper news organization
to respond to an emergency. They might be able to buy one for a low price
and add to their audience, even sell a few commercials.
Mark Casey, K1MAP, Hampden, MA
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