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Lightning strike weakens signal at Hubbard Radio stations 93.3, 106.7

The stations are expected to be back to full strength in about three weeks.

Hubbard Radio
Hubbard Radio as seen Thursday, July 7, 2022, in Baxter. B93.3 and 106.7 WJJY have weak signals after lightning struck a tower in recent weeks.
Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch
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BRAINERD — Signals are weak at Hubbard Radio stations 93.3 and 106.7 after lightning struck an antenna on top of Mount Ski Gull.

Staticky music has met lakes area listeners who tune into those stations on their radio this week, but the signal should be stronger soon.

Hubbard Radio Station Manager Jeff Hilborn said Thursday, July 7, the antenna that was hit transmits for both KBLB and WJJY, affecting the signal on both stations. It is unclear when the lightning strike happened, as Hilborn said the signal can take time to erode when things like this happen. The severe Memorial Day storm might have been the culprit, but that can’t be said for sure.

“We’ve had transmission failure — or transmitter failure — on one select station; we’ve had tower strikes, etc., but where it actually took out the antenna for both, we’ve never experienced that,” Hilborn said.

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With the antenna compromised, both stations are now being transmitted through a studio transmitter link at the Hubbard office in Baxter, though the tower there is only 100 feet tall, compared to the Ski Gull tower’s 400 feet and position on top of the hill.

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“FM signals are what they call line of sight,” Hilborn said. “It will just shoot it out as far as it can go, and it goes out in a circular pattern. And so when you get up high on that tower and you shoot it out, the higher you are, the more distance you’re going to get with your signal. And now when we’re doing that there, and we’re doing it on a backup transmitter with a backup antenna, it’s just very, very compromised.”

Hubbard Radio
Hubbard Radio as seen Thursday, July 7, 2022, in Baxter. Two Hubbard Radio stations — 93.3. and 106.7 — are being transmitted from the Baxter studio after lighting struck at tower on Mount Ski Gull.
Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch

As of Thursday, Hilborn said he had ordered a new custom-built antenna, which should take about two weeks, or 10 business days, to complete. It then has to be shipped out to the transmitter site and installed. Hilborn estimates about a three-week process to get the new antenna up and signal strengths back to 100%.

In the meantime, the station is acquiring new coaxial cable from Bemidji to string onto the tower. How far up the tower the cable can go will depend on how much cable can be secured. The cable will be hooked up to on-site antennas that were being used by AM stations but will be re-tuned to WJJY and KBLB. The new hookup should strengthen the signal to cover Brainerd and Baxter but will still likely only cover about half of the station’s typical 60-mile radius.

Hilborn expects this work to be completed by the end of the week.

While the stations are weak, Hilborn encourages listeners to tune into the two stations online at todaysbestcountry.com and 1067wjjy.com , or through the B93.3 and 106.7 WJJY apps available in the Apple and Google Play stores.

“We will be back. We’ll be back at full strength, and in the meantime, just find us on alternative sources because we are there, and we are broadcasting,” Hilborn said, adding he thanks listeners for their loyalty to the stations.

THERESA BOURKE may be reached at theresa.bourke@brainerddispatch.com or 218-855-5860. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/DispatchTheresa .

Related Topics: RADIOSEVERE WEATHER
Theresa Bourke started working at the Dispatch in July 2018, covering Brainerd city government and area education, including Brainerd Public Schools and Central Lakes College.
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