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MPR in Brainerd off the air due to lightning damage

Fans of Minnesota Public Radio in Brainerd who have grown accustomed to listening to classical music and tuning in for news were met recently with something unusual: silence.

Callers to MPR stations KBPN-FM 88.3 News and KBPR-FM 90.7 Classical were greeted Friday with a recorded message about what was simply billed as "an unfortunate circumstance."

The Brainerd stations' tower was damaged because of lightning—which was not mentioned in the recording—so the stations are off the air, according to MPR Regional Director Kristi Booth.

"We thank our MPR radio audience in the Brainerd lakes area for your patience and understanding. Please know we are doing everything we can to become fully operational as soon as possible," Booth said.

Engineers and tower crews have already replaced 2,000 pounds of cable from the tower base to the MPR antenna at 500 feet but the crews "have found additional damage" according to the message heard by callers. Additional materials were ordered to repair damage.

"Depending upon many factors such as weather, equipment availability and shipment, we are hopefully anticipating returning to the air on or before Nov. 17," said a soothing woman's voice in the recording heard by callers. "MPR is totally committed to our listeners."

MPR operates a 46-station network serving almost all of Minnesota and parts of surrounding states, reaching more than 1 million listeners each week with its three regional services—MPR News, Classical MPR and The Current, which features listener-supported music.

KBPR-FM 90.7 was established in February 1988, and KBPN-FM 88.3 News was established in July 2003. The stations' power is listed as 34,000 watts and reaches as far north as Park Rapids, as far east as Aitkin, as far south as Little Falls and as far west as Wadena.

"MPR knows how much we rely on its services and that's why they're doing everything as quickly as possible—in difficult conditions—to get those services back on the air," said Bob Brekken of Brainerd, secretary of MPR's local Regional Development Advisory Council.

Listeners may stream MPR services at or via one of MPR's mobile apps while waiting for broadcast service to return. MPR's Member and Audience Services at 800-228-7123 can assist with locating the audio streams online or through the apps.

MPR quick facts

• Minnesota Public Radio began broadcasting from St. John's University in Collegeville on Jan. 22, 1967.

• Every week, 20 million people listen to programming by MPR's national programming division, American Public Media.

• MPR has 46 network stations and 41 translators.

• Contributions from corporations, foundations, institutional sponsors and individuals make up 60 percent of MPR's overall budget.

• MPR News has received more than 1,000 awards, including the Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Award, George Foster Peabody Award and numerous national Edward R. Murrow Awards.