Nearly two years after being destroyed by a hurricane, KPLC is set to rebuild, according to this article. In the early morning hours of August 27, 2020, Hurricane Laura made landfall on the southwest shore of Louisiana. At Category 4 strength with sustained winds of 150 miles per hour, Laura was the strongest hurricane to hit that corner of the state since storm records began in 1851. As Laura’s eyewall passed over Lake Charles and its metropolitan area, the storm was still a devastating Category 4. The damage inflicted on homes and businesses was nearly incomprehensible.
One such hard-hit business was the KPLC news station. In a worst-case scenario event, the station’s 400 foot transmission tower snapped in half, causing the top portion to crash down into the station’s broadcast studio, which was housed below, knocking the news station off the air. Station staff had evacuated the studio a mere 12 hours before.
John Ware, KPLC-TV’s general manager, went out to inspect the damage to the station later that morning. “To see the tower sticking through the studio roof into the room that we would have been broadcasting from was absolutely sickening,” said Ware.
Despite the fact that their studio was in ruins, the station and its staff still found ways to get important and desperately sought after information to the people of the Lake Charles area. This included assistant news director and anchor Jillian Corder and a group of KPLC journalists reporting on the ground while their colleagues worked from the WAFBstation in Baton Rouge. Many residents view these journalists’ actions as heroic for never giving up and finding creative ways to show them what things looked like in their neighborhoods and for letting them know when it was safe to return home. “In a lot of stories, you attempt to relate to your subject matter, to your viewer, you try to deliver what you think is important to them,” Corder said. “In the moments after the storm, after Laura, you knew what was important to them — because you were going through it, too.”
The KPLC station has been housed downtown in Lake Charles for its entire 65 year history. A decision had to be made on whether to rebuild in the same location or to move the station elsewhere. Gray Television, KPLC’s parent company, along with KPLC, has spent the last two years creating a plan to move forward. They recently announced their decision to keep the station at its Division Street location. The multi-million dollar project will include expanded television production facilities, two new broadcasting studios, a larger parking lot, and a new building entrance with lots of glass and natural light. “We think it will be a great facelift for the area,” said Ware. “We worked with the city to make sure it reflects the architectural significance of the area.”
The biggest challenge for the rebuild will be the fact that the station will continue to broadcast from the location throughout construction. As a result, the construction will have to be done in phases. But keeping the station downtown is worth this inconvenience, according to mayor Nic Hunter. “We got to a point today where there was a group commitment to come back and reinvest in what has been a historic location and a very important anchor for downtown Lake Charles,” said Hunter. “KPLC has been a trusted source of news and updates in this community since 1954. It’s an important thing when new companies come into Lake Charles; it’s also an important thing when existing companies make the decision to reinvest and retain jobs in Lake Charles.”
Pat Williams Construction, a local company, is leading the project and construction is slated to begin in the first half of August. The building should be completed in about 18 months, weather permitting. “When something’s good for downtown Lake Charles, it’s good for the entire city of Lake Charles.” Mayor Hunter said. “This reinvestment not only affects KPLC, but the bigger picture is the spin-off benefits it has for the surrounding businesses and the surrounding communities.”
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