Life at the End of the Road: Local Radio

Radio in Homer, AK is very different than radio in Minneapolis, MN. While Minnesota’s options definitely included smaller stations, the stations that came in clearest were all standard, mainstream music. The Top 40 station, the former Top 40 songs station, two country stations that played nothing but the new releases. There were smaller stations, like the University of MN station, but we never really listened to them.

In Homer, here’s what tunes in on the FM dial:

  • K-Bay (Oldies)
  • K-Pen (Country)
  • K-Wave (Adult Alternative)
  • A religious channel that tunes in on about 83 different frequencies.

When we arrived, we were convinced that K-Wave had a playlist about 2 million songs long, and they were all songs we’d never heard before. Having been here for a few months now, I can assure you the playlist is nowhere near 2Mil, and while we didn’t hear them back in Minnesota (granted, we were probably not listening to the same genre radio stations) there’s an odd comfort in recognizing a track and turning up the dial. Here’s a sample of something heard on K-Wave, where it’s all about the music.

Homer’s a full fledged Alaskan city of 5k people in city limits, with another 4k in surrounding areas. It’s no bush community, or PoDunk USA. That said, it’s no Chicago, New York, or Los Angeles either. The latter was really driven home the first time we heard Dog Gone News on the radio. It’s a radio segment where details of lost or found pets are aired, along with phone numbers to call if you spot anyone’s pet. And it’s exactly like it sounds. “A white and gray husky/lab mix named Sprinkles was last seen off Mile 3 East End Road. Wears a green collar with tags. If found please contact 907-555-1234”. One after another. And let me tell you, people lose pets up here.

Even the emergency broadcast warning system is different in Homer. In Minnesota, they had the old civil defense sirens straight out of the Cold War for alerting you to a nuclear attack. Ok, I don’t actually know for sure that’s what they were used for, but it seems plausible. They’re just sirens, and they blast. On the first Wednesday of every month at 1pm, blast they would. We all knew what they meant outside of the testing – severe weather’s coming, take cover. Severe weather almost always meant strong thunderstorms, potentially tornadoes. There were also TV based warnings communicating the same thing.

Here in Homer, we have a whole different alert system, and warning of entirely different things. Anecdotally, I don’t see many people that have TV antennas on their homes. We don’t on ours, and we don’t have cable TV. So I have no idea if there are TV based alerts here. What I do know is that the sirens are way different. Gone are the spinning sirens blasting a single tone. Here in Homer, we have giant speakers. Through them is blasted a multinote tone alerting you that a message is coming. Next you’re given an audible message telling you that this is a test of the early warning system and that if it were a real emergency you’d be directed to turn on your radio for further instruction. After hearing it for the first time, we figured it might be a good idea to find a radio and have it accessible.  Tsunamis and volcanos are, after all, very real threats here. We live at sea level and we’re living on the Ring of Fire, with active volcanoes all around us. So we now have a clock radio in the living room. Tuned to K-Wave, playing more gems like these:

Who knew moving to Alaska would grow our musical horizons so much!

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