Radio Baha’i will stay on the air for rural SC listeners during hurricane
For the first time ever, Radio Baha’i WLGI 90.9 FM in Hemingway, South Carolina, has the capacity to stay on the air through a major storm “promoting love, peace and unity,” and providing possibly lifesaving information to the station’s rural listening base.
WLGI will operate under low power even if electricity is cut off during Hurricane Florence, General Manager Greg Kintz said by phone from his car as he was driving to the station Thursday morning, Sept. 13, to assist with final preparations alongside Production Manager Ernest Hilton.
That means people in a 20- to 25-mile radius of the station’s studio in northwest Georgetown County will be able to get up-to-the-minute information from weather services and local and state officials.
Kintz said many of those listeners in largely rural Georgetown, Williamsburg and Marion counties are not served by other stations. Under full power the station’s signal radius is 75 miles, but at the edges of that listening area people have access to other media.
The storm was expected to hit South Carolina on Thursday night, and WLGI switched to low power at 4 p.m. in anticipation of landfall.
The station and its low-power transmitter are connected to generators with a week’s supply of fuel, he said. The studio’s windows are protected by a hurricane fabric that is more effective than plywood.
Hilton, a longtime voice of WLGI, and his family will take refuge at the station and he will remain on the air throughout Hurricane Florence. Across Williams Road on the main campus of the Louis G. Gregory Baha’i Institute, a Baha’i-operated center of learning, another 24 people are expected to shelter starting Thursday night.
“I’ll be there for the duration,” said Hilton when contacted midway through the afternoon. “I’m going to try to stick out as best I can during the night. It’s not anything new to me. I’ve done it once before during a hurricane maybe 15 or 20 years ago.” During that hurricane he — and the station — stayed on the air until the storm got worse “and I had to get out of there.”
Hilton said his job will be to record information as it comes in and then drop it into the broadcast.
A partnership with WBTW-TV, the CBS affiliate in Florence, South Carolina, will give WLGI access to weather reports and other storm-related information such as evacuation routes and key telephone numbers.
A similar arrangement with South Carolina Educational Television will allow WLGI to broadcast news conferences by Gov. Henry McMaster and other officials.
Kintz said he will provide additional information from his home in nearby Conway as internet and phone access allow. Just a week ago, the station’s local internet provider installed a generator so its computers and signal can operate in the event of a blackout.
Internet access will allow WLGI to keep streaming over wlgi.org during the storm, as well as offering updates on its Facebook page. It also will give volunteers in other parts of the Southeast an opportunity to send recorded information to the station for airing.
WLGI and the Louis G. Gregory Baha’i Institute are named for a prominent 20th-century African American Baha’i, an attorney and lecturer on issues of racial harmony, whose roots are in South Carolina.
The station moved into its present building in 1998 after operating from a trailer for 15 years. Its programming of spiritually uplifting songs and public service information is intended to contribute to positive social change by providing the communities it serves with access to knowledge those communities have identified as necessary for spiritual, cultural, social and economic development.