On November 16, 1957, at 1225 Zulu, a plate supply choke failed in one of the two local oscillator circuits controlling the first IF of the Lawrence, Kansas, municipal snow generator. The FCC forensics team analyzing the case eventually concluded that a beetle, species unknown, had found its way into the locked transmitter room, seeking respite from the cold outdoors, and entered the oscillator's shield can through a small gap where one of the fastening screws hadn't been properly torqued down. The beetle sought out the plate choke, where the 12.8 MHz currents induced in its body doubtless made it feel pleasantly warm and tingly all over (to the extent that insects are capable of such feelings). Unfortunately, there was enough voltage between successive turns of the coil that a misstep ended the beetle's life in a glorious display of the phenomenon known as "arcing". The electrical and thermal effects cascaded to other components. The forensics team painstakingly reconstructed the sequence of events, step by step, but to summarize: the oscillator destroyed itself.
Although they hadn't written a plan for this eventuality in particular, there was a general outline for what should happen in such cases, and events started along that path correctly. The plate-supply indicator fuse blew, and, as designed, flashed its bright red flag into the little window for Marvin Shulte, the engineer, to see on his next regular inspection visit. He was supposed to throw the cutoff switch, rendering the dead oscillator "cold", and then replace components as necessary. He could even order a complete new oscillator from Topeka, should that be necessary; in the meantime, the other oscillator would keep the generator running.
But November 16, 1957, was a Saturday, and Marvin Shulte wasn't due to check the fuse panel again until Tuesday the 19th. On Sunday the 16th, at 2251 Zulu, something (the FCC never figured out just what) happened to the quartz crystal in the second oscillator. That module's power output suddenly dropped by approximately 22dB, to a point where it could no longer drive the mixer, so the first IF went quiet, and the effect cascaded through the rest of the system. Although careful measurements would have revealed a faint shadow of a signal still applied to the antenna, for all practical purposes the snow generator had gone off the air.
From 2251 Zulu, television viewers in Lawrence were treated to reception of the unnumbered channels that they don't list in TV Guide.
Three hundred and twenty-six suicides were reported in Lawrence in the week of November 17 to 23, 1957; a more typical number for the third week of November would be sixty. There was a similar spike in the birth rate during August 1958. Fortunately, early Monday morning the FCC offices in Washington received an irate long-distance telephone call from one Miriam Beasley, age seventy-six. Quickly figuring out what was going on, they sent Marvin Shulte down on time-and-a-half to replace the oscillators, restoring normal television reception to the surrounding area. Over the next two weeks, the FCC sent in the forensics team to contain the damage and figure out what went wrong, and things gradually returned to normal. Three men in black suits drove a long black car up to Miriam Beasley's doorstep, told her she had done a great service to her country, handed her a medal with an eagle on it, and told her that she would be shot if she ever told anyone.