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Amateur Radio Preparations Continue for Category 4 Hurricane Harvey; Flooding Most Significant Fear


[UPDATE: 2017-08-26@1200 UTC] Hurricane Harvey has been downgraded to a Category 1 Hurricane and is weakening. The Hurricane Watch Net (HWN) reports the storm made landfall around 0300 UTC on the middle Texas coast, between Port Aransas and Port O'Connor, with maximum sustained winds of 130 MPH, moving to the northwest at 7 mph. Harvey is the first major hurricane to make US landfall since Wilma in 2005. The HWN remains activated.

The National Hurricane Center said, “Harvey is expected to produce total rain accumulations of 15 to 30 inches and isolated maximum amounts of 40 inches over the middle and upper Texas coast through next Wednesday.  During the same time period Harvey is expected to produce total rain accumulations of 5 to 15 inches in far south Texas and the Texas Hill Country over through southwest and central Louisiana.  Rainfall of this magnitude will cause catastrophic and life-threatening flooding.”
As now-Category 4 Hurricane Harvey bears down on his state, ARRL South Texas Section Manager Lee Cooper, W5LHC, reports that all 97 South Texas counties are on alert, with many preparing to assist coastal areas as needed. The Hurricane Watch Net (HWN) remains active in “Catastrophic Response Mode” on both 14.325 MHz and 7.268 MHz. The VoIP Hurricane Net activated today (connect at *WX_TALK* Echolink conference node: 7203/IRLP 9219. Stations on All-Star can connect to the Echolink side of the system by dialing *033007203). The Southern Territory SATERN Net will activate at least for one day on Saturday, from 0900 until 2000 CT on its regular frequency of 7.262 MHz. WX4NHC at the National Hurricane Center activated at 2100 UTC on Friday.

“Our West Gulf Division Communications Task Forces (Rapid Response Teams) are preparing for possible activation into any devastated areas,” Cooper told ARRL. “Several emergency operations centers (EOCs) are activated, and most others are on alert and preparing to activate as needed. The state EOC is activated and fully operational. Army MARS is ramping up and getting ready to deploy to assist in evacuations.”

Cooper said several Texas counties are under evacuation orders, although these are not mandatory. Governor Greg Abbott has issued disaster declarations for more than 30 counties. “Corpus Christi to Houston will get hit hard,” Cooper predicted. “Flooding is definitely the biggest concern.” A 28,000-square mile area could see 30 to 35 inches of rain.

South Texas Section Emergency Coordinator Jeff Walter, KE5FGA, has been updating his Section’s emergency response plans. “We have received calls of support from the Alabama SEC, the Oklahoma SEC, and the North Texas acting SEC,” he told ARRL. “We are asking our members to take care of their families first.”

At ARRL Headquarters, the Emergency Preparedness Staff continues to keep a close watch on Harvey and on Amateur Radio Emergency Service preparations in Texas and neighboring states. ARRL staff has been coordinating with the American Red Cross; some 600 Red Cross Volunteers are en route to South Texas. W1AW has been in monitoring mode but will activate, if needed. The ARRL New Mexico Section remains on standby and has offered assistance, if needed. Mexico’s national association for Amateur Radio, FMRE, has offered assistance.

As of this afternoon, nearly 100 evacuees were in seven open shelters. Another 50 shelter locations are on standby. ARRL Emergency Preparedness Manager Mike Corey, KI1U, reported today that it’s anticipated some 20,000 individuals will require sheltering for 4 days, and 10,000 will require sheltering for 14 days. “This is expected to be a long-haul event, up to 6 weeks,” he said in an afternoon update.

As thing now stand, it’s possible that Harvey may retreat into the Gulf of Mexico after hitting Texas, regain strength, and the make a second landfall in Louisiana. That state is at a Level III activation.

The impending storm has caused the cancellation of a special event related to Hurricane Katrina. The special event marking the 12th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina was set for this weekend with many 1 × 1 call signs planned to be active.




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