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Storm Stories from the Frontlines: Audio is a Lifeline During Hurricane Maria

2 minute read | June 2018

As summer begins, so does hurricane season, and the importance of radio is no more apparent than when a natural disaster occurs. Radio has the unique capacity to reach remote areas during times of catastrophe, and when it comes to providing communication and information, radio remains a lifeline to the most vulnerable in times of crisis.

The fall of 2017 was one of the most active Atlantic hurricane seasons on record, and in Puerto Rico, which experienced immense damage from multiple storms, the recovery and rebuilding process continues today. The strength of radio following the hurricane in Puerto Rico sparked a 100,000+ audience boost in news radio listenership on the island.

In Puerto Rico, which is a Nielsen radio diary market, the just-released winter 2018 survey reveals a rise in listening to news-formatted radio stations as a result of last year’s turbulent weather.

More than 3,000 diaries were returned in the winter survey, 800+ with comments and 55 with feedback about the necessity of using radio during the storm.

These comments reflect the personal stories of those who have endured the devastation of this hurricane, and who ultimately saw radio as the lifeline that they needed to communicate with family and friends. A few comments from diary keepers during the survey:

“I’m a loyal follower of AM stations because it keeps me up to date on Puerto Rico when Hurricane Maria hit. Many people listened to the radio, as it was the only means of knowing how family and friends were doing and of keeping me company. So it is an excellent form of media, and I’ve been listening since I was a little girl. Thank you for allowing me to participate.”

“Due to Hurricanes Irma and Maria, means of communication in Puerto Rico were damaged and the only stations (which we could still receive) were WKAQ and WAPA radio that provided a lot of information and I still listen to them today.”

“During our time of need due to Hurricanes Irma and Maria, radio was vital in providing information regarding the situation in Puerto Rico and in keeping us informed regarding our friends and family since we lost all communications, especially WKAQ & WAPA radio.”

“The radio stations that I have listened to during the last three months are due to Hurricane Maria.  Before the hurricane I would only watch TV.  I really like this change in my life and I’ve continued the habit.”

These stories are just a small snapshot that reflect the human experience behind this catastrophe and radio’s seminal role in providing essential information, news of loved ones and even companionship during this natural disaster.  As such, it comes as no surprise that audio remains the top weekly reach medium, with 93% of U.S. adults listening to radio every week.

Photo credit: Marjorie Sanjurjo.