One Year After Hurricane Michael, Station Shares Story of Amazing Recovery
Nexstar Media Group, Inc., announced recently that its wholly-owned subsidiary, Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. (“Nexstar” or the “Company”), has launched a new state-of-the-art local broadcast facility in Panama City, FL (DMA #149) that will serve as the home of WMBB-TV (ABC) and mypanhandle.com. The station’s previous facility was heavily damaged last fall when Hurricane Michael swept through Florida’s panhandle, leaving a multibillion-dollar trail of devastation in its wake.
Almost one year to the day that Hurricane Michael made landfall, Nexstar completed a nearly $3 million renovation to launch WMBB-TV’s new, state-of-the-art broadcast facility in Panama City. The facility now features a modern environment that fosters collaboration among departments. The newsroom has been completely upgraded for the digital age, with new digital broadcast capabilities that enable WMBB-TV’s team of journalists to produce live broadcasts without a traditional control room. As part of Nexstar’s Digital First Initiative, this creates a “faster to the public” platform that benefits the communities of Florida’s panhandle.
“Panama City and the surrounding area depend on WMBB-TV to deliver vital, up-to-the-moment information, especially in times of extremely dangerous weather conditions,” said Tim Busch, President of Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. “This new facility and Nexstar’s Digital First Initiative give WMBB-TV and mypanhandle.com the unmatched ability to fulfill this responsibility by enabling our local team to ‘go live’ with the latest news and weather information whenever and wherever the conditions demand it. I’m also very proud of our staff at WMBB-TV and across the company for pulling together to help each other during a time of crisis, even as they continued to serve the public with outstanding journalism.”
In the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Michael, despite severe damage to the station and the loss of its signal, WMBB-TV and its staff remained dedicated serving the area’s local viewers. With help from Nexstar’s sister station WFLA-TV, Tampa (DMA #12), WMBB-TV continued live streaming coverage of the storm and the clean-up efforts on the station’s website and on Facebook for more than 130 hours. WMBB-TV returned to the air within 96 hours, broadcasting live from the WMBB-TV parking lot. Proving the power of its Florida footprint, WFLA-TV provided the affected area with continuous news coverage of Hurricane Michael anchored from its facility in Tampa. In addition, more than 90 staff members and eight satellite trucks from Nexstar Broadcasting stations around the country relocated to the Panama City area to assist with news coverage and enable their WMBB-TV colleagues to address the personal impact of the hurricane on their respective families, friends, and homes.
“Hurricane Michael caused more than $10 billion in damage to the area, and many of our staff members were personally affected—some even lost their entire homes,” said Terry Cole, Vice President and General Manager of WMBB-TV. “But Nexstar is a family, and our family came to the rescue. Nexstar and WFLA-TV provided us with the resources we needed to keep covering the story of the hurricane and the recovery effort, and enabled our staff to focus on helping their families, repairing their homes and, in some cases, rebuilding their lives.”
Nexstar employees raised more than $90,000 to assist WMBB-TV staff members and Nexstar Media Group matched the contributions dollar-for-dollar, bringing the total raised to nearly $200,000. The money was used in part to help WMBB-TV staff members pay insurance deductibles, remove debris, and replace lost furniture and clothing.