Steamboat Springs Until Tuesday afternoon, local radio listeners used to the lively music selection on KUNC-FM had heard nothing but the sounds of silence for a few days. The reason? A bolt of lightning that blasted the station's hardware on Walton Peak Saturday night.
The public radio station, which was recently bought out by listeners wanting to save KUNC's diverse music, was up and running again by Tuesday afternoon.
Local supporter Rick Fisher said he walked out of church and across the street to his house Sunday morning expecting to hear Weekend Edition or Car Talk only to be met by a fuzzy emptiness. Fisher was part of the Steamboat corps of the Friends of KUNC, the nonprofit group that won a bidding war with Denver-based Colorado Public Radio for the station's broadcast license earlier this month.
Fisher quickly called KUNC's Greeley office, where it is owned by the University of Northern Colorado and will be until contract negotiations are finalized, to inform the station's engineer of the problems.
KUNC asked Pat Arnone, the owner of Pearson Comm-
unications, to look into the matter on Monday. Arnone drove a snowmobile to Walton Peak on Rabbit Ears Pass Monday, took down the suitcase-size box called a "translator" and brought it back to his shop. By Tuesday afternoon, the translator, which picks up the station from the Greeley signal and sends it to Steamboat-area radios, was back up. That translator, which broadcasts on 90.7, is rebroadcast by another translator on Emerald Mountain at 88.5. When the equipment that helps broadcast at 90.7 goes down, the 88.5 station soon follows suit, said KUNC Station Manager Neil Best.
Arnone said he has been working with KUNC to repair the translators in case of emergency for the past few months. He said this was the second signal failure on Walton Peak he has dealt with since he started working for the station.
Because the equipment is located on the top of mountains to ensure reception of the faraway signal, the repair job can be difficult and time-consuming, Best added.
"It isn't like you can go out your back door and fix these things," Best said.
Best said the station's signal in Sterling also petered out this weekend, sending the engineer all over the state in the past few days.