Why WCVY was Off the Air for a Few Days

Sep 4, 2013

Normally there'd be ceiling tiles above the black/green walls, but the rain melted them all into a foul-smelling sludge that's now splattered everywhere in the space.
Credit Aaron Read
When you’re a broadcast engineer, you get used to receiving calls at odd hours proclaiming things that tend to fall outside the bounds of “normal.”   It’s just the nature of the job.   But even your intrepid engineer can be surprised sometimes.  Friday morning, August 23rd, was one of those times. 

That morning I got a call informing me that WCVY, our 91.5FM signal for much of Kent County, was off the air.

Why was it off the air?

The roof collapsed and rain got in.  

Say what?

Yes, the roof collapsed and rain got in.  More precisely, Coventry High School has been performing substantial renovation work to the entire roof of the school, and the weather seal over the radio station’s space failed during the nasty thunderstorms on Thursday August 22nd.   The inner, metal roof held…fortunately!...but all that did was evenly spread the rain water over the entire space.   All the ceiling tiles got completely soaked and disintegrated, and then the sludge of rainwater and tiles dribbled all over the rooms where the WCVY transmitter and studio space are.   Everything has bits of this sludge splattered all over it, and at one point there was nearly an inch of water on the floor! 

Power had to be killed to the entire space, so 91.5 ceased transmitting for several days while emergency repairs were performed on the lights, smoke detectors, and outlets. Remarkably, after everything had a chance to dry out, it appears only the pair of desktop computers were damaged beyond repair.  The mix board, transmitter, processor and all the other gear came back up.

Unfortunately, all of it quickly started showing signs of rust and similar corrosion, and the transmitter itself either was damaged or its meters are malfunctioning because it’s showing current and power readings that can’t possibly be accurate.   I personally observed more frequent dropouts from the Comrex BRIC Link audio codec that we use to get audio from the studios in downtown Providence to the space in Coventry, so it’s probably damaged, too.  The radio tuned to 88.1 that we use for a backup audio path is also completely nonfunctional, and it’s not yet safe to go up on the roof to fix it.   

We’re assuming that between the sudden odd behaviors and rapid corrosion effects appearing, that much of the gear that “survived” will soon fail permanently, so we’re working to replace it all before that happens. 

UPDATE 09/18/13: WCVY has been off the air for several days due to continuing reconstruction in the studio/transmitter space in Coventry High School.   The interior walls and flooring all had to be torn up and replaced.   Construction is slated to be finished this week, although that may extend into early next week.  Hopefully we can get WCVY back on the air in some capacity after that; we don't yet know the status of the insurance claim for all the water-damaged equipment since it is part of a much larger claim from the High School.