Keys radio station tells 7News why they remained on air during Irma

SUGAR LOAF KEY, Fla. (WSVN) – There is a lot of devastation in Sugar Loaf Key, but the spirit of the Keys is not missing a beat.

Volunteers have been making sure that people get fed and taken care of. A distribution site outside a cafe is filled with food and it’s not going to waste. And one radio station stayed on air even during Hurricane Irma.

“This is my little living quarters,” said US1 Radio host Kimmy Beier. “With my two dogs, it’s hard, but we have a mattress and my pillows — which don’t look — they don’t have pillow cases on right now.”

Hurricane Irma destroyed Beier’s Big Pine Key house. “This is just some of the debris,” Beier said as she showed 7News pictures.

US1 Radio stayed on the air as the Category 4 hurricane went through the area to keep their listeners informed.

“This is our STL [studio-transmitter link], and I had to hold it back and keep hanging on to it because if we lost this, we were done,” said general manager at US1 Radio Rick Lopez. “We were the lifeline.”

The station powered itself with a generator. When they were low on gas, they announced it and listeners brought them fuel. “We felt it was important enough for us to be on the air for as long as possible, so we could relay that information,” said US1 Radio news director Bill Becker.

“We’re a public service, and we’ve had people tell us that we saved their lives,” said Ron Saunders with US1 Radio.

While schools were closed down during the storm, campuses are now being cleaned up and are soon ready to open. The Key Largo School is set to open on Monday.

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