THURSDAY JULY 15TH WAS A DAY that Peterborough residents will never forget, and neither will the staff of 980 Kruz and The Wolf 101.5fm.
The heavy rain in Peterborough hit the hardest overnight and the effects started to show by early morning.
Our FM morning news announcer, Alana Cameron, was the first to arrive at the station shortly after 5 a.m. She had to park around the corner on another street because of the flood conditions on King St. Next into work were Marty Sylvestri on The Wolf and Gord Gibb and John Badham on 980 Kruz. They had quite a hard time getting here because of the high water levels and washed out streets, which made their drive quite hazardous.
They all had to take higher ground and try and work their way downtown. Getting into the radio station for all four announcers was hectic. The water flow outside our studios was so strong the announcers had to literally grab onto things to keep their balance. They had to walk through knee high water and when they finally got in the building they encountered about six inches of water throughout. The only thing that kept our two radio stations on-air was the fact that the studios were built on sub-floors.
I awoke that morning at 6 a.m. to my cell phone ringing. The Mayor of Peterborough phoned me to tell me how bad things were and that she couldn't get through to our news people because the phone lines were down. I got in my vehicle and made the same trip into work as the other announcers. Due to closed and flooded out roads my five minute drive turned into an hour. When I did finally arrive I had to park about two blocks away from the station to keep my vehicle dry.
As I was wading through the knee-deep water I began to realize how bad it was downtown and what my other employees were going through. Carey Walker (promotions director), Catherine Hanrahan and Dale Lowe also managed to come in early and help us out. Ryan Snodden stayed on-air from early afternoon that day until after midnight to keep the news updates on the air with help from Craig Gear. Pam Smith and Catherine (who stayed on-air all night to keep listeners informed.) Scott Hanes came in as well and helped out on-air with our two stations as well, through the morning and afternoon.
From the get-go at 6 a.m. our news and on-air team was able to get information on the radio to residents who were waking up to this crisis. With the phone lines out of service we had to rely on cell phones until close to 11 a.m.
Lisa MacDonald, our afternoon news announcer, was at home that morning and decided to start making calls from her house. She then called us on our cell phones here at the station to relay the information. We also had no way of putting anyone on-air with the cell phones until Lisa asked if we could hold the cell phone up to the microphone. So I turned on my speakerphone option on my cell phone and held it up to the mic so Lisa could relay the information she had gathered over The Wolf and 980 Kruz.
The response from listeners has been unbelievable. They've had great things to say about our coverage and how even in our own adverse conditions we managed to stay on the air to deliver the information.
As of the date that I'm writing this (Friday July 23rd) the city of Peterborough is still under a state of emergency and our stations continue to operate at full strength, even though the water damage has caused some technical problems. The sub-floors that initially protected our on-air studios and equipment are now being ripped up to begin the re-build process due to water and sewage that was below the sub-floors.
While the rest of our building is quite the mess with no carpets, a lack of drywall and the desks, chairs and filing cabinets all over the place, we had to relocate our on-air studios. The Wolf and a news booth have been set-up in our boardroom and 980 Kruz and a news booth have been set-up in my office. Thanks to our technical staff for helping us to make a seamless transition into other parts of the building. The listeners didn't have any idea that we had to move because we stayed on-air throughout.
I would also like to thank the staff at Pippin Technical Support. When we arrived the morning of the flood, we realized that our Scott System voice track computer was sitting in water. They built us a new system and had it to us (from Saskatoon) by 9 a.m. the next day. That was a huge help.
Through this entire process (even relocating the on-air studios) the staff has been great. Everyone in our building helped out in some way, and the community and our clients have expressed their thanks. Even though some staff suffered personal damage (water logged engines and damaged vehicles trying to get into work) their spirits remained high.
The one thing that everyone here has said since day one is that we got off lucky. There are many people in Peterborough that are being forced to live in flooded out conditions and hundreds have lost almost everything they own. What we went through is nothing compared to others in the community. We are just glad that "radio" was able to play a part and help out in some way.
Brian Ellis is operations manager and program director for Corus Entertainment's The Wolf and 980 Kruz in Peterborough, Ont.
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KRUZ's newsroom, now under repair for water damage.