|City||WWNO: New Orleans, Louisiana
KTLN: Thibodaux, Louisiana
|Broadcast area||WWNO: New Orleans metropolitan area
KTLN: Houma/Thibodaux metropolitan area
|Slogan||New Orleans Public Radio|
|Frequency||WWNO: 89.9 MHz (also on HD Radio)
KTLN: 90.5 MHz
|Translator(s)||104.9 K285FF (Metairie, relays WWNO-HD2)|
|First air date||WWNO: 1972
|Format||FM/HD1: Public radio
HD2: Classical "Classical 104.9"
|ERP||WWNO: 35,000 watts
KTLN: 200 watts
|HAAT||WWNO: 299.8 meters
KTLN: 109 meters
|Facility ID||WWNO: 38607
|Callsign meaning||(U)niversity of New Orleans (The second W substitutes for the U)
Thibodaux, LouisiaNa (the station's city of license)
|Owner||University of New Orleans|
WWNO/KTLN is a public radio outlet in New Orleans, Louisiana that offers Classical, Fine Arts, Jazz, as well as informative programming like "Car Talk", and the highly acclaimed radio program "A Prairie Home Companion" with Garrison Keillor. The station produces a locally oriented variety program, Crescent City, which features musical and comedic performances. The host of Crescent City was New Orleans commentator, journalist, and writer Ronnie Virgets.
WWNO has a repeater in Thibodaux, Louisiana, KTLN (90.5).WWNO is a typical public radio station rooted in cultural programming and serves as hybrid news and classics weekday station for the local audience. The station had a fairly standard variety package on the weekends and its Saturday mornings featured the stock line-up of NPR’s Weekend Edition; Car Talk; Wait, Wait Don’t Tell Me; the Metropolitan Opera and beyond. WWNO is located on the 4th floor of the university’s library.
Prior to Hurricane Katrina making landfall in late August 2005, general manager Chuck Miller called extra staff in to the station to help, dropped the regular program format, played short burst music and shared as much information as possible about traffic, evacuation procedures, and anything else that would be helpful to the 86,000+ people that tuned in each week. The building had a back-up generator with buried transmission lines. The transmitter site had generator power. Staff prepared to sleep away from windows. Computers and other valuable items were brought into interior rooms.
On the evening before the storm made landfall, the University of New Orleans shut down the IT department without informing the station personnel. WWNO was left without Internet access. Station staff turned to the television and other local radio for sources of information. Without even two months in the city under his belt, Miller found himself hunkering down with staff in the station the Saturday before Katrina hit with sleeping bags and non-perishables to broadcast through the storm. Four WWNO staff made it to work during the early morning hours of Sunday, August 28, 2005, Miller, Fred Kasten, James Arey and Jack Hopke. Two people handled the phones and monitored TV and the other two served on-air. Katrina was then declared Category 5 and headed straight for New Orleans. Miller requested and received permission to evacuate the staff from the station. WWNO signed over its signal to a local TV station.
The station was knocked off the air by Hurricane Katrina. The WWNO transmitter facility suffered a loss of nearly 200 feet of transmission line delivering audio to the antenna. Limited physical access and a lack of power hampered restoration of service. The generator ran but as the campus flooded it shorted out the power lines. Staff were relocated to places all over the country.
Once the WWNO staff were located and accounted for, Miller and his team made calls to NPR and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) to seek support of WWNO's restoration. CPB's Greg Schnerring suggested a satellite downlink to restore programming. Miller approached Georgia Public Broadcasting (GPB) in Atlanta about using a radio studio and delivery of the signal via a PBS uplink from Atlanta to New Orleans. GPB had the capacity and could send audio to New Orleans via their satellite system, the radio service had a rarely used studio, and IT could set up WWNO’s technology needs. Georgia Public Radio officials agreed to welcome WWNO to their studios until the station was able to return to its location on the UNO campus.
CPB provided an emergency $20,000 grant and non-commercial program providers NPR, PRI and APR temporarily waived program costs. However, challenges remained with getting a non-profit station back on the air while its staff was scattered all over the country, its studios on the campus were inaccessible and its transmitter was disabled.
Relocated in Atlanta, Miller began looking for equipment to rebuild. WWNO Chief Engineer Robert Carroll was able to reach the crippled transmitter site on the West Bank of the New Orleans area with enough equipment and supplies to repair the facility and bring it up to operation. American Public Media offered a transmitter and engineering support. CPB offered two transmitters from Alaska, and more than 15 stations offered temporary employment, housing, clothing, food and transportation to the displaced WWNO staff. GPB spent about a week getting the studio ready along with fulfilling WWNO’s IT requests while CPB worked on getting the fly-away downlink sent to New Orleans.
WWNO’s chief engineer, Robert Carroll, with both of his children, one who has special needs, drove behind police lines to get to his home for medicine and to see the station’s transmitter site in Gretna. He immediately noticed that 200 feet of transmission line up the side of the tower was missing. Katrina’s winds burst the clamps (every 8 feet). The line hit the ground with such force it left a mark in the concrete. That had to be repaired and was done so in-kind by the tower’s owner. Upon its arrival, Carroll and operations manager Ron Curtis set up and aimed the downlink at the GPB satellite, and set up a Musicam Internet Codec at the site to serve as a return audio feed and a backup for the satellite. Public Interactive loaned WWNO a second for the end in Atlanta. The station kept its connection to the Crescent City via Program Director Fred Kasten, who built a studio in his home in New Orleans after returning from the evacuation.
Back on the air
WWNO returned to air at 4:47pm EDT (3:37pm CDT) on September 2, 2005 from the studios of GPB in Atlanta via satellite to the NPR downlink tied to the station's local transmitter and tower just outside New Orleans. Public service was the primary reason for being on-air so every break was to have recovery information in it. The remote operations from Atlanta gave WWNO the technical ability to launch a local news department from 400 miles away. Credits go to the generosity of GPB, technical assistance from NPR, financial support from CPB and the dedication of key employees for getting WWNO back on the air after Katrina made the University of New Orleans studios inaccessible and inoperable. Major credits to WWNO chief engineer Robert Carroll and operations director Ron Curtis who accessed the transmitter site on the West Bank and secured the equipment before the floodwaters had receded in New Orleans.
Return to the Crescent City
Miller, music director James Arey, broadcaster Farrar Hudkins and afternoon announcer Jack Hopke worked double shifts for three months, broadcasting by satellite from GPB's studios. A generous local Atlanta resident let Arey and Hudkins live rent-free in a house. CPB funds helped furnish the home and pay utilities. Program director Fred Kasten set up a small studio in his damaged uptown home and assembled a team of feature reporters who helped WWNO paint an authentic picture of New Orleans' recovery from the scene. Kasten also broadcast his `Saturday Night Jazz' show from the studio. Webmaster Shantel Washington worked from Roanoke, Virginia. Office manager Latricia Huston from Baton Rouge, and two others, membership manager Cynthia Marshall and development director Karen Anklam, worked from evacuated locations and then finally their New Orleans homes.
On Friday, September 23, less than one month after the devastation caused by Katrina and just hours after beginning to broadcast from Atlanta, things turned even more serious for WWNO staff as they began to discuss Hurricane Rita headed for the Gulf in the general direction of New Orleans. WWNO supplemented information coverage with regular updates about Rita through the weekend. The station continued to broadcast from Atlanta to a devastated New Orleans via satellite, including emergency weather coverage. After 89 days in Atlanta, New Orleans National Public Radio affiliate WWNO returned to its University of New Orleans studios on December 19.
- Walsh, Thomas (August 28, 2015). "There & Back Again: WWNO's Katrina Story". WWNO. Retrieved February 19, 2017.
- WWNO Online
- Query the FCC's FM station database for WWNO
- Radio-Locator information on WWNO
- Query Nielsen Audio's FM station database for WWNO
- Query the FCC's FM station database for KTLN
- Radio-Locator information on KTLN
- Query Nielsen Audio's FM station database for KTLN
- Query the FCC's FM station database for K285FF
- Radio-Locator information on K285FF
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