Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES®) volunteers are pitching in to support communication at some Red Cross shelters in South Texas in the ongoing aftermath of catastrophic and unprecedented flooding resulting from Hurricane Harvey. ARES members also are serving as net control liaisons to the Harris County Office of Emergency Management (OEM). At least 3 dozen volunteers were assisting at shelters. Another dozen were on tap to serve as OEM liaisons. ARRL Emergency Preparedness Manager Mike Corey, KI1U, said the Red Cross is in need of Red Cross-trained shelter managers and volunteer management specialists. Anyone interested should contact him.
A variety of emergency, health-and-welfare, traffic, and tactical nets in South Texas are active on HF at various times of the day as well as on a wide array of VHF and UHF repeaters, which remain available as needed. The Salvation Team Emergency Radio Network (SATERN) has been active on 14.265 MHz, while the Military Auxiliary Radio Service (MARS) has been using the 5.330.5 (USB) interoperability channel on 60 meters. As of mid-week, Harvey, now a tropical storm, was headed northeast toward Louisiana, where ARES volunteers are on standby.
This week, ARES® team members were being advised that the impact to the region’s communications infrastructure had been relatively minimal, considering the strength of the storm and the magnitude of the flooding. ARRL South Texas Section Manager Lee Cooper, W5LHC, told ARRL on Monday that the disaster would remain in the response phase for several days, although needs may change later in the response phase or when it transitions to the recovery phase. ARRL South Texas SEC Jeff Walter, KE5FGA, said ARES members could participate in any nets related to the storm response from home.
“Harris County and the City of Houston have issued a shelter-in-place order,” Walter pointed out over the past weekend. “The local region is paralyzed. Resources are stretched to accommodate all calls for assistance. Take care of your family first, then if you are able to help in the recovery phase contact your local Emergency Coordinator or District Emergency Coordinator for instruction on what to do. Do not show up without approval from your local EC.”
In an August 29 interview with Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, news-talk radio station WGMD, ARRL South Texas Section Public Information Officer Mike Urich, KA5CVH, described the situation in Harris County, Texas, as the flood emergency continued. Urich also took time to explain how the public service that Amateur Radio is able to provide during emergencies and disasters.
As of August 29, some 268,000 customers were without power in Texas. American Red Cross shelters were reporting more than 6,000 occupants in Texas; more than 725,000 people have been ordered to evacuate. The state Emergency Operations Center is at full activation, and Governor Greg Abbott has declared a state of disaster for 50 Texas counties, while evacuation orders and advisories are in effect for eight counties and several independent communities in Louisiana, where the state EOC is partially activated. A state of emergency also exists for all Louisiana parishes in preparation for widespread flooding.
Alfonso Tamez, XE2O, President of the FMRE in Mexico, has offered South Texas “all the help you need from our country in ham communications.” Tamez noted the extensive Mexican community in the Houston area.
NASA’s Johnson Space Center (JSC) in Houston has announced that it will remain closed to all but mission-essential personnel through Labor Day, due to the effects of Harvey. The center will reopen on September 5. JSC said its primary concern was personnel and public safety, but that it also would allow the center to focus on its highest-priority mission activities, including the return to Earth this weekend of ISS crew members Peggy Whitson, ex-KC5ZTD; Jack Fischer, K2FSH, and Fyodor Yurchikin, RN3FI.
Radio Amateurs of Canada (RAC) said it was monitoring the progress of Harvey, which could, in due course, brush the coastal waters of Newfoundland.
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