North Texas has some of the most extreme weather on the planet. Texas reports the hottest droughts and the worst freezing rain and ice storms one can imagine. In a large part this is what gives Texans some of their grit. The most surprising part of all is just how quick these meteorological conditions can occur, and just as quickly dissipate.*News Years Eve - late 70’s. *
I have been called out of bed shortly after midnight because of a system wide television outage due to the weather. I was employed as a technical engineer for a cable television provider in a small community in north Texas. I happened to draw service duty that particular night.
I kissed my wife goodbye and headed out into the storm. As I went from the mobile home I was renting to the service bucket truck, I was brought to full attention by the quick-stings of the blowing hail. The marble sized pellets made a terrible racket. I was amazed that no windows were getting broken, or my eye -glasses for that matter.
Since the outage was system wide, I had an idea that the problem was going to be at what we call the “head-in”. The head-in is where the actual signals or broadcast for any given system is/are collected from different source via microwaves, satellite or antennas and distributed over cable to your TV set. The head-in is sometimes a small building next to the tower that houses equipment to collect and convert signals and give the technicians a means to monitor the activities. It will usually have a gas or diesel generator close by.
After about half an hour of driving on very slick paved roads, I turned onto a gravel and dirt path that led to the head-in. Sure enough. The building was pitch black and the 700 foot antenna tower was dead as well. Not even a small lamp was lit anywhere on the property. This meant that not only was the power company down but so was our back-up generator. It is vital that the tower lights stay on so aircraft don't crash into them. Television cable companies at that time were considered a utility and the utility commission mandated that all outages were corrected withing 24 hours maximum and no more than one hour response time.
It was a long, cold ten minutes but I finally got the frozen locks open to the gate and the head-in.
The dispatcher at the office had told me that people at the TP&L (Texas Power and Light) Company had major problems with the storm, and had no idea when the power was going to come back on.
There was a small generator in one of the bays of my truck. My plan was to hook the leads from the small generator up to where the leads for the building generator were located. Then climb up and change the connector leads to the generator from the TP&L system. Come back down, restart everything and all would be good to go. I thought.