Winter Weather Damages FM Transmitter and Antenna

In mid-November, as Western Alaska transitioned from fall to winter with the thermometer ping-ponging above and below freezing, the KNOM FM transmitter’s signal strength dropped precipitously.

The cycle of freeze-thaw combined with snow, freezing rain and wind wreaks havoc on the 30 year old antenna. (As regular readers may recall, the AM transmitter was replaced in 2017. The mission simulcasts on both AM & FM frequencies. The FM transmitter is a lower power unit with an antenna mounted on a tower behind the radio station.)

KNOM’s engineers Van Craft and Les Brown assessed the situation, and the news wasn’t good. The FM transmitter was failing, and the transmission line and/or the antenna were needing serious repair. The engineers recommended total replacement in the coming months. As the antenna is 30 years old and the transmitter 20 years old, both pieces are at their expected end of functionality.

As winter temperatures have come down and stabilized, the FM transmitter is again working properly – for now.

This is the estimated price tag:

Nautel FM transmitter: $6,674
Antenna equipment: $35,778.50
Two power amplifiers: $924
Tower installation: $20,000 (estimate)
Total: $63,386.50

As the cost estimates were generated, KNOM received word that a faithful benefactor who passed away earlier in the year had left a legacy gift in her will.

The family called just days after the bill was finalized and asked that the gift go toward equipment. KNOM was humbled to learn the final amount covers this unbudgeted expense.

The station’s benefactor had a special devotion to Saint Kateri Tekakwitha, whose feast day is KNOM’s broadcast birthday, July 14.

Image at top: KNOM’s FM tower, outside the station building.