At the top of the EMCOMMS list this weekend is news of Hurricane Michael’s effect on the Southern United States.
The ARRL reports that an array of Amateur Radio public service assets was active as Hurricane Michael — now a tropical storm — made landfall near Mexico Beach on the Florida Panhandle on October 10, with devastating 250 km/h winds. The storm is believed to be the first Category 4 or stronger hurricane to hit the Florida Panhandle, and the National Hurricane Centre (NHC) warned of life-threatening storm surges as well as hurricane-force winds and heavy rainfall.
The Hurricane Watch Net activated on October 10th and closed operations the following day.
WX4NHC, the Amateur Radio station at the National Hurricane Centre, was active to receive observed weather information and data via Amateur Radio to aid forecasters.
The VoIP Hurricane Net activated on October 10th to support communication with the National Hurricane Centre.
The Southern Territory Salvation Army Team Emergency Radio Network (SATERN) stood down on October 11th. SATERN was requested to provide Amateur Radio operators for Pensacola, Panama City, Tallahassee, and Tampa, as well as some local units in Georgia, and at Divisional Headquarters in Atlanta.
The ARRL North Florida and West Central Florida sections assisted SATERN with additional operators in Pensacola, Panama City, Tallahassee, and Tampa. North Florida Section ARES was at full activation.
Miller Norton, W4EMN, the Communications Watch Officer at the Duval County Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) in Jacksonville, Florida, was monitoring SARnet — a UHF-linked repeater network in Florida — when he heard an urgent call for help that needed to be sent to the State EOC in Tallahassee. All other forms of communication were out, and Norton was able to relay the message via Amateur Radio. He also passed along messages and requests from the Jackson County EOC to the American Red Cross. Norton said officials in Tallahassee and Jackson County were both incredibly grateful for the way the SARnet system functioned during the weather emergency.
Jackson County Emergency Coordinator Ricky Whittington, KD4AST, was deployed to the county EOC in Marianna.
“We took a direct hit by the centre of the storm at 220 km/h,” he told Clay County ARES Assistant Emergency Coordinator and Public Information Officer Scott Roberts, KK4ECR. “[The] county maintenance building across the road from the EOC was picked up and slammed into the north side and over the roof of the EOC just prior to the eye passing over.”
The incident took out the HF antenna, which has since been restored. Whittington said the internet failed, as did cell service for a while. Hams have been passing material and resource orders to the State EOC via HF and SARnet. Whittington reported “total devastation of Bay, Jackson, and Gulf counties,” with loss of electrical power and water service, in addition to damage in Franklin, Holmes, and Leon counties. “[The] only mode of communications after the eye came across was ham radio, until we got minimal cell service a few hours ago,” he reported.
The ARRL Emergency Response Team has been coordinating with Field Organization leadership in ARRL Sections affected by the storm, as well as with WX4NHC, the HWN, VoIP Hurricane Net, Department of Homeland Security SHARES, and US Army MARS.
Thanks to the ARRL for the report.
As of Saturday afternoon, the death toll from Hurricane Michael stood at 14.
A message from Greg Mossop G0DUB of IARU Region 1 says that it is a busy weekend in the Region with two major exercises and at least one emergency happening.
In Oman Younis A41MA reports that as Tropical Storm Luban heads towards Oman and Yemen, the National Committee of Civil Defence has deployed resources to the South of the country ready to deal with the flooding predicted to hit the area. An initial four amateur radio volunteers are present to help provide links to any isolated locations. This operation is initially on VHF but HF is ready to be used if required. Storms in this area generally go under-reported but are just as severe as other disasters with the previous two tropical cyclones in the Arabian Sea claiming nearly 300 lives.
In Spain, their ‘Field Day 2018‘ exercise took place yesterday ( 13th October ) with a focus on Net Control activities. HF was expected to be in use on 7110, 7145, 7175 and 14315kHz. Winlink and VHF/DMR was also to be used
Finally Radio Amateurs in Romania are participating in an European Community Exercise in their country. ModEx 2018 will call for the use of 3710 and 7130kHz along with VHF/DMR.
All exercises and actual emergencies should be expected to identify as ’emergency exercise’ or ‘exercise’ on the air. When these events are watched by representatives from our Administrations, it is important that Amateur Radio is seen positively, so please allow the operators room to operate.
And Jose Mendez EA9CD informed us yesterday about the start of that FIELD DAY 2018 in Spain, where there were several special stations on the bands on 20m, 40m and on UHF, VHF and 6m, in addition to the DMR, C4FM and D-star modes. Links were also to be made via Winlink, and a Hamnet Network was deployed by EG5FD to provide data support. This exercise ended at 16h00 UTC last night.
And in the city of Palu on the island of Saluwesi in Indonesia, 2 weeks after the earthquake and tsunami, the “Save the Children” organization is still receiving 20 missing-children reports a day. These are children separated from their parents, or amongst the estimated 5000 people buried in the landslides mentioned in last week’s report, or children being looked for by concerned relatives other than parents, who are desperately hoping the children have survived, even though their parents are missing presumed dead.
The overall number of children still missing is believed to be in the thousands. It’s unclear how many are still alive. An unknown number of bodies remain buried beneath neighbourhoods where the soil liquefied after the quake.
Unidentified children live in tent cities in several aid stations for separated children that humanitarian groups have set up across Palu, the city closest to the earthquake’s epicentre, looked after by social workers and United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund officials. The monumental task of reuniting families or managing orphaned children is going to take a long time. We can only applaud the wonderful dedication of these conscientious workers.
This is Dave Reece ZS1DFR reporting for HAMNET in South Africa.