Amateurs in Oklahoma Respond to Storm Aftermath
After an EF5 tornado swept through Oklahoma on May 20, radio amateurs in that state assisted the American Red Cross with its communications efforts. “Amateur Radio operators were asked to support voice communications from the American Red Cross Oklahoma City Chapter Headquarters to their feeding station at the Incident Command Post located in Moore,” explained ARRL Oklahoma Section Emergency Coordinator Mark Conklin, N7XYO. Moore, located about halfway between Norman and Oklahoma City, suffered the brunt of the tornado damage. As of 8:30 CDT on May 22, all Amateur Radio operations in support of the American Red Cross ceased.
At least 24 people, including nine children, were killed when the 1.3-mile wide tornado moved through Moore, Oklahoma’s seventh largest city. The National Weather Service stated that the tornado traveled an estimated 17-mile-long path for 50 minutes, with an estimated peak wind that ranged from 200-210 miles per hour, making it an EF5 storm, the most powerful category of tornados possible.
In addition to the American Red Cross, members of the Salvation Army Team Emergency Radio Network (SATERN) were also in Moore, ready to support and assist with the Amateur Radio response. According to ARRL Oklahoma Section Manager Kevin O’Dell, N0IRW, the tornados disrupted cellular service in the affected areas.
“I have been in regular contact with Oklahoma Section officials since yesterday morning,” said ARRL Emergency Preparedness Manager Mike Corey, KI1U. “Through the ARRL EmComm Twitter feed and regular communication with our national partners, the ARRL has been sharing information on the Amateur Radio response to the Moore tornado. Our folks in Oklahoma who have been assisting the American Red Cross and the Salvation Army have been doing a great job and they have my heartfelt thanks for the work they are doing for their community.”
Corey also stressed that those who wish to assist with response efforts in Oklahoma should not self-deploy. “The ARES leadership in the Oklahoma Section has everything under control and there is no need for volunteers from outside the Section,” he said. “If you would like to assist in the overall recovery effort, please check out the website of National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disasters (VOAD).”