Anguilla – Keithstone Greaves is a veteran broadcast journalist who is originally from Montserrat but has covered the Caribbean for many years. He is currently Programme Manager at Radio Anguilla 95.5 FM. His station remained on the air throughout Hurricane Irma on September 6 and 7 and provided life-saving information to listeners throughout the island.
Greaves describes what happened: “We had a small team in place …one senior broadcaster … a newcomer (announcer), a secretary, and two technicians. We had a small supply of dry foods and water to last for about three days.
And what did his team think about the extent of the challenge they were about to face?
“We knew it was going to be a major storm … and were hoping for the best,” he said. “Many of us thought we might have been spared…decreased winds but that was not to be.
“We were broadcasting before, during and after the storm. We lost our main antenna at the peak of the storm and the technicians were able to rig up a small antenna and about two hours later were back on the air,” he added.
Significantly, because of this effort, Radio Anguilla was the only station that remained on the air in Anguilla and both French and Dutch St Maarten throughout the storm.
He conceded that “the staff were extremely nervous at the height of the hurricane.”
“Many felt the building would collapse,” Greaves said. “As the senior broadcaster/acting director of Information and Broadcasting at the time, I had to provide a cool, calm posture and did most of the broadcasting at the time.”
“Our two technicians were very anxious,” he added. “Our building shook violently with 185 plus miles per hour winds … some gusts were estimated to have been well over 200 miles per hour.”
When the storm subsided, it was time for members of staff to assess their own individual situations. No one escaped unscathed. “All members of the staff suffered some damage,” Greaves said. Two of them lost their entire houses.
“There were no major injuries,” he said, “minor cuts, scrapes and bruises but damaged vehicles, work station equipment, the director’s office was totalled … windows blown out … files and documents destroyed by water.”
Even as work continued throughout the post-hurricane phase, the station was receiving high marks for the quality of coverage and the bravery and dedication of the staff from government authorities and both domestic and overseas listeners.
“There is nothing like preparation and having some experienced hands at the wheel,” Greave said. “For me personally, the experiences of Hugo and the volcano in my home country, Montserrat, came in well for this storm. I was able to share this with colleagues especially the junior staff.”