Contacted “Tiger” Tom Murphy to see if he had any The Columbus Day Storm stories. Here’s what he had to say:
I do have a little bit from KISN on the day of the Columbus Day Storm. For some reason I was at the station early that afternoon. Mike Phillips was doing the Afternoon Show having come back to Portland from KJR in Seattle. He would return to KJR shortly. I remember the sky getting kind of weird, sort of yellowish, and I said to Mike, “Something’s Happening Here.” Imagine my surprise when my line showed up in the Buffalo Springfield’s 1967 hit.
It wasn’t long before all hell broke loose and it also wasn’t long before we lost power. The wind was really shaking the studio windows but none of them broke which surprised me.
Steve Brown happened to be in town. He had driven out from Omaha which was very unusual. In what was probably not a real smart move, Steve decided “we” should get out there and see what was going on. So, Mike, myself and Steve got into his BIG ’62 Cadillac Convertible and headed out.
The wind was really blowing and it was shaking Steve’s “Caddy” pretty good and that car had to weigh almost as much as a Kenworth. We saw lots of broken windows and we drove by a restaurant supply company, whose windows had blown out and there were pots, pans and big kettles rolling around in the street. Mike said we should grab a couple of them since you never know when you might need a 10 or 15 gallon kettle.
After a lengthy discussion, lasting at least 5 seconds, it was decided we’d let this once in a lifetime opportunity pass. In retrospect, I think this was an early example of Mike’s “thinking out of the box” which would serve him well in later years as a exceptional Program Director.
We continued driving around for quite a while and were really shocked by the blown out windows, uprooted trees,downed power lines, which we dodged and the general mayhem. We also listened to Wes Lynch on KGW, who was doing an outstanding job anchoring KGW’s coverage. Of course they were able to stay on the air with power from their generator. Other stations might have been on the air but we happened to listen to KGW.
Byron Swanson, KISN’s Chief Engineer, was finally able to locate a generator to take to the transmitter which had no power. Unfortunately the generator apparently didn’t generate exactly 60 cycles but rather slightly more which made the turntables run too fast so records sounded funny. Don’t remember if it affected the cart machines, too. Too many cycles was the problem which was the explanation I got from Bryon and Bill Howlett. Speaking of Bill, he was at the transmitter through the storm and we all marveled, especially Bill, considering how rickety the building was, that is didn’t collapse. However, it didn’t.
It occurred to me that later on some radio stations began speeding up their turntables slightly to either make the records sound sharper or end quicker to get to the commercials sooner or whatever. That whole concept began by accident, with KISN, thanks to the Columbus Day Storm and a “flawed” generator.