Lights Back on for WSM Tower


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The lights on the historic WSM-AM radio tower just south of Nashville, TN are working again. A spring lightning strike blew up the equipment housed at the base of the tower. The force blew out windows in the tuning house, destroyed an underground water pipe, and turned some of the metal components into gas, notes the Williamson County website.

The red and white diamond-shaped tower was 878 feet in height when erected in 1932.

 Now, it stands at 808 feet because the tower was causing self-cancellation in the “fringe areas,” according to the station’s website. 

Transmission Systems Specialist Watt Hairston described a lightning strike as a one in 100-year event that proved a huge challenge. Much of the tower component assembly had to be redesigned, manufactured and installed. “There are standard components that you can use but the exact configuration of every one of them is different because every one of them has a whole different way that it interacts with itself, the size of the tower, the ground system, and the soil conductivity. So, there’s no place that you go and get one of these systems and it’s sitting on a shelf somewhere,” Hairston told the Williamson County website. 

The last time the equipment was changed was about 1988, according to Hairston. The clear channel AM station transmits 50,000 watts from the tower.

“There’s five firms on the planet that make these things, only two of which were capable of making this particular component assembly,” said broadcast engineer Jason Cooper. WSM is best-known for airing the Grand Ole Opry radio program.

January 8, 2020   

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