In an interview for C-SPAN's The Communicators Thursday, Louis Sigalos, the Federal Communications Commission’s consumer-affairs-outreach chief, said Wilmington, N.C., is ready for the switch to digital Sept. 8 but pointed out that its analog channels will still be available to broadcast emergency information if Hurricane Hanna hits hard.
Sigalos said the noon deadline for pulling the plug on primary signal delivery via analog could be rethought if there are power outages or an evacuation.
Jonathan Collegio, vice president for the digital-TV transition for the National Association of Broadcasters, echoed Sigalos' confidence but also said that if Hanna turns into something "awful," the stations would obviously consider postponing the plug-pull. He spoke to C-SPAN from Wilmington, where he said he had been for the past couple of days.
Wilmington Mayor Bill Saffo in the same interview said the FCC was going to make the call about going through with the switch, but said he also felt comfortable with making the call to the FCC and asking to change the date if he felt uncomfortable with the weather situation.
Saffo pointed out that the stations would be able to switch back to analog if two other hurricanes in the Atlantic threaten Wilmington later in the week -- an option that won't be available to stations making the national switch Feb. 17.
At press time, weather reports had Hanna at a tropical storm, but with increased wind speeds to 70 miles per hour. Coastal flooding and tornados are possible.
Somewhat ironically, Hanna could hit both key cities in the transition -- Wilmington and the FCC's home base, Washington, D.C., where tropical-storm and flooding watches were already issued.