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Dan Moran: Air, water mix fine at radio island

A WKRS vehicle parking lot radio station. | Michael Schmidt~Sun-Times Media

A WKRS vehicle in the parking lot of the radio station. | Michael Schmidt~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: May 24, 2013 6:23AM

No man is an island, but a radio station currently is — and has been since the skies unloaded on us last week.

“We’re kind of built in a valley here, so whenever we get a lot of rain, this is the result,” said Karl Wertzler, WXLC-FM general manager, on Monday, April 22, as he eyed the station’s Belvidere Road facility completely surrounded by knee-high water.

Actually, he noted, what passersby have been seeing since the morning of April 18 “is the extreme result.”

“I’ve been with the station six years, and there have been a few instances where water has covered the parking lot, but it would evaporate pretty quickly. It’s never been this deep.”

Local history records that WXLC and its sister station, WKRS-AM, were forced off the air by the county’s reigning champion of floods in 1986. But according to Wertzler, a combination of hard work and modern technology has kept them up and running during the Flood of 2013.

“We were very pragmatic as far as sandbagging, and we have a very loyal staff hanging around to help out,” he said, adding that a skeleton crew is posted inside, but “it’s pretty easy in this day and age to stay on the air” even if your mothership is taken down.

“It was a good thing we got our remote vans out on the street,” he said, referring to Ruth Wilcox Avenue on the property’s west side. “We never went off the air on ‘XLC, and on ‘KRS, it was only an hour or so when the water was at its peak. We even had a couple of remote broadcasts over the weekend we were able to do.”

So how is it inside the brick-and-sandbag building?

“Very soggy,” Wertzler said. “We don’t have a big amount of water in there, just a lot of waterlogged carpeting. We have a restoration company coming in (Tuesday) to help us out.”

The good news, said Wertzler, was that the temporary lake was starting to drain down on Monday. He reported that the parking lot was “up to an average individual’s thigh” at one point, but had dropped eight to 10 inches.

“My gauges are the dumpster in the back and the Salvation Army bin off to the side,” he said, “which have some very soggy items inside at this point.”

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