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"Wavescan" is a weekly program for long distance radio hobbyists produced by Dr. Adrian M. Peterson, Coordinator of International Relations for Adventist World Radio. AWR carries the program over many of its stations (including shortwave). Adrian Peterson is a highly regarded DXer and radio historian, and often includes features on radio history in his program. We are reproducing those features below, with Dr. Peterson's permission and assistance.

Wavescan 420, January 12, 2003

The Attack of Typhoon Pongsona

One of the most devastating typhoons ever to hit the island of Guam in the western Pacific unleashed its fury for a period of around ten hours on Sunday evening, December 8. All of the wind speed indicators were destroyed by the high winds, though it is estimated that wind gusts reached as high as 190 miles per hour.

This sustained and aggressive storm destroyed and damaged a huge number of houses and other buildings, and it completely interrupted the normal flow of business and other activities throughout the island. Schools were closed, radio stations left the air, highway traffic was completely suspended, and ships could not enter the harbor. At the beginning of the stormy events, an explosion started a fire at the oil storage tanks near the harbor, a fire which burned for six days before it could be extinguished.

The Adventist clinic at Agana was damaged and they were without power for several days. Their emergency generator malfunctioned and they imported a similar, though larger, unit from the nearby island of Saipan. The large and ornate Adventist church in Agana was badly damaged, and water intrusion destroyed both the organ and piano. Four classrooms at the Adventist school were destroyed.

The roof was torn off the Micronesia Mall; long rows of concrete electrical poles were snapped at the base and overlaid the roadways; the island-wide telephone service was inoperative; at one stage radio station KGUM was on the air for an hour or two using battery power; the rain was so heavy that it was described as a white out; heavy furniture was sucked out of houses; motor vehicles were flipped; and so the story goes on.

The outside windows of a ninth-floor unit of an apartment building were sucked out by the high winds, and the family could not open the doors to get out of the apartment due to the strength of the wind. All flights to the island were cancelled or diverted. Due to the fire at the oil storage tanks, gasoline was rationed, and at one stage only government vehicles were permitted to buy gasoline. People near the fire area experienced for several days what they called "black rain".

The sustained high winds caused considerable damage at both of the shortwave stations located on the island of Guam. Later in this program, we will tell you the story of what happened at our own AWR station KSDA, and next week in Wavescan, we will tell you the story of what happened at the other shortwave station, Trans World Radio's KTWR.

There are three more shortwave stations in the area, located on the islands of Tinian and Saipan. However, the strength of Super Typhoon Pongsona missed both of these islands, and they experienced no more than occasional gusting of strong winds, though some damage was sustained on both islands.

No significant damage has been reported at KFBS, the shortwave station operated by the Far East Broadcasting Company near the northern end of Saipan, nor at the IBB station located at the southern end. The Voice of America reports that they were on the air at half power for a while at their large station on Tinian to reduce the possibility of arcing in the antenna systems during the heavy downpour of rain.

AWR and Typhoon Pongsona

We continue in our saga about Super Typhoon Pongsona with the story of what happened at our AWR shortwave station, KSDA, on the island of Guam. Much of this information comes from reports prepared by Brook Powers, who is the station manager for AWR Guam. We are pleased to mention too that AWR Guam returned to the air on Friday evening, January 3, and it is now back to its regular broadcast schedule of transmissions to the areas of Asia and the Western Pacific.

Originally the weather service had forecast that Typhoon Pongsona would veer away from Guam, but instead the full force went straight across the island. Soon after 4:00 pm on Sunday afternoon, December 8, the full force of the wind storm was felt at the AWR stations, with winds gusting up to 190 miles per hour. High winds were experienced for nearly ten hours.

The shortwave station, with its four transmitters at 100 kW and its four tall curtain antennas, was closed down in advance of the storm as a precautionary measure. Late Sunday night when the fury of Super Typhoon Pongsona had abated, an inspection was made of the antenna system. Because of the damage they had sustained, it was considered unwise to attempt to return to the air at that time.

During the next couple of days repair work was performed on the four antennas, with some transmissions returning to the air using the emergency generator as the power source. However, on the Thursday morning, the emergency generator failed and it was declared as unrepairable. Thus AWR Guam was without electrical power for a total of 22 days.

During the interim period when no electricity was available, an additional emergency schedule was implemented using leased transmitters in the United Arab Emirates and Taiwan. Power was restored to the station by the local electrical authority on Friday evening, January 3, and transmissions began almost immediately on three transmitters. The fourth unit was re-activated some hours later. The interim emergency schedule of fill-in broadcasts to Asia was terminated on Sunday, January 15.