97-year-old radio station VOWR is no longer broadcast in the Netherlands after a thunderstorm

VOWR is off the air after a thunder and lightning storm Friday night. (Francesca Swann / CBC)

One of Newfoundland and Labrador’s oldest radio stations was cut off after a severe thunderstorm hit the metropolitan area on Friday evening.

VOWR station manager Doreen Whalen said the station’s transmitter was one of the victims of the storm.

Whalen believes that the transmitter, located on the road to Mount Scio, was struck by lightning.

“We are still investigating. He is out of service,” she said in an interview with St. John’s Morning Show. “We don’t know when or how we can put it back in service.”

VOWR, a 97-year on-air nonprofit radio station, still broadcasts online.

But Whalen said the station, which caters to seniors, was inundated with calls from confused listeners. She said the station was working to get the message across to them.

“It has been a busy few days for us,” she said.

Whalen said preliminary results showed charred wiring in the transmitter, but she is unsure of the extent of the damage and noted that the station may need to replace it entirely.

A new transmitter would cost anywhere from $ 50,000 to $ 60,000 – an expense the small, volunteer-run radio station cannot afford, she said.

VOWR is in talks with its transmitter supplier to determine next steps, according to Whalen, who noted the need for public donations to pay for new parts and labor.

Rely on listeners

VOWR began in 1924 as a Wesley United Church outreach project. The station’s programming has expanded over time to include secular music and a variety of shows. The VOWR website presents the station as “a true contributor to the cultural fabric of our community”.

VOWR has local business sponsors, Whalen said, but the station relies heavily on its listeners for donations.

In 1982, the VOWR broadcast tower overturned in a particularly strong windstorm. Whalen said the station was able to rebuild quickly, thanks to its generous audience.

Now, she’s hoping that listeners will fare for the station as they have in the past, especially if the station has to buy another transmitter.

With the help of her listeners and volunteers, VOWR will be back on the air soon, she said.

“We have known and overcome other challenges, and I’m sure that with the support of our listeners… we will overcome this one as well.”

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