MOUNT VERNON — There’s something to be said about living up to one’s name. And following the violent windstorm that blew through Mount Vernon and Knox County on June 29, staff members of WNZR-FM certainly did just that.
Adopting the nickname of The Lifeline many years ago, students and staff of Mount Vernon Nazarene University’s radio station were a saving grace to many of their listeners after electric power was knocked out across the area.
Although WNZR is a college radio station, it has always been the staff’s goal to serve the community as well. That goal was seen as a real opportunity as listeners on battery-powered or generator-powered radios were able to tune in to WNZR’s broadcast and gather a wealth of emergency information, even though electric service had been cut off.
Joe and Marcy Rinehart, director of broadcasting and station manager, respectively, along with student workers recently shared their post-storm experiences with the News.
As soon as electric power was lost at MVNU, WNZR was able to remain on the air by powering the broadcast studio and transmitter with generators.
“Our full intention is to be here to serve our listeners, their families and our community,” said Marcy. “And in times like the power outage, that is the time we can really shine, where we can be an impact. When these situations come up, we look at them as such an amazing real-life learning experience for our students.”
In looking at the events that unfolded following the storm, “This was the most challenging four- to five-day period I’ve had,” said Joe. When electric power was lost in the area early Friday evening, generators at Founders Hall kicked on immediately which kept the station up and running. Calls to the station began coming in about electric being out or that poles and trees were down in neighborhoods. Within two hours, it was a steady stream of phone calls with those seeking advice or providing emergency information.
The priority that evening was set at letting people know how widespread the power outage was, where there were downed trees and power lines and keeping the residents safe. Information was coming in from American Electric Power, Knox County Sheriff David Barber as well as numerous listeners.