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Ham Radio Tornado Response Winds Down:

from The ARRL Letter, Vol 22, No 20 on May 16, 2003
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Ham Radio Tornado Response Winds Down:

ARRL Oklahoma Section Manager John Thomason, WB5SYT, said this week that the intense Amateur Radio relief and recovery effort following two tornadoes earlier this month in the Oklahoma City area was "winding down quickly." The FCC rescinded a general communications emergency on 3900 kHz in the Oklahoma area last weekend. Responding amateurs in Oklahoma supported relief activities of The Salvation Army following storms May 8 and 9. Amateurs also provided weather-spotting via the SKYWARN system and handled emergency and health-and-welfare traffic and assisted with damage assessment.

"Amateur Radio responded quickly and thoroughly," Thomason said, adding that hams from the Oklahoma City area as well as other parts of the state turned out to help in what he called "a very challenging and changing environment." Some 50 amateurs were involved in the Oklahoma response, Thomason said. The storms struck just a day after some 30 of the hams involved had attended a two-day Salvation Army-sponsored disaster conference.

The Oklahoma storms capped a week that some have been calling the worst ever for tornado outbreaks. On May 4, tornadoes struck the both sides of the border in the Kansas City area as well as in other parts of Kansas. Tornadoes that spun off the same weather system also hit parts of Tennessee and other states.

In Missouri, Section Emergency Coordinator Don Moore, KM0R, says hams there logged more than 1000 volunteer work hours in eight days. "We have had Amateur Radio operators active in one part of Missouri or another since Sunday, May 4, providing communications for served agencies, assisting in damage assessment or handling health and welfare traffic into and out of the affected areas," he said.

In Kansas, the Johnson County ARES Net was on the air within minutes of the May 4 tornado. Hams used HF to maintain contact among The Salvation Army Emergency Disaster Services headquarters in Kansas City and affected areas south and east of Kansas City. Hams also supported Salvation Army mobile canteens in stricken areas throughout the Kansas City metropolitan area and rode along with damage-assessment teams. Another series of thunderstorms swept into Kansas May 8, and a tornado hit Lawrence near the University of Kansas campus. There were no major injuries, but The Salvation Army dispatched canteen units with ham radio support.

In Tennessee, hams assisted as residents dug out from a tornado that struck the Jackson-Madison County area early on May 5. Madison County EC Kenny Johns, AB4EG--a City of Jackson employee--found himself putting in 12-hour days in cleanup operations. As of last weekend, some 5000 homes remained without power, and Johns said some areas may take up to a month to restore. Nearly 200 structures were destroyed, 11 people were killed, and hundreds were left homeless. Hams were assisting the Madison County Emergency Management Agency as needed, Johns said.

ARRL Assistant SEC for Middle Tennessee Tom Delker, K1KY, said ARES teams in Middle Tennessee provided daily support to served agencies daily since tornadoes on May 5 and 11. Delker said that upward of 400 Middle Tennessee amateurs provided support for state and local emergency management agencies, law enforcement, the American Red Cross and the National Weather Service. When damaging tornadoes struck east of Smyrna on May 11, "ham storm spotters tracked the storm and responded to the call for assistance immediately after touchdown," Delker said. The storm destroyed six homes and left some 30 others with major damage. It was a similar story in nearby Williamson County, where a tornado destroyed one home and damaged others. ARES groups in more than 22 Middle Tennessee counties were active, he said.


The ARRL Letter Vol. 22, No. 20 May 16, 2003

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