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ARES® Awaits Activation for Wildfire, Tropical Storms

09/04/2009

Even as the Station fire threatens Los Angeles' communications infrastructure atop Mt Wilson and Tropical Storm Erika and Hurricane Jimena die down in the tropics, emergency officials in the affected areas have not requested assistance from any Amateur Radio groups, including ARES®.

Mt Wilson houses all the antennas for television and radio stations in the Los Angeles, as well as antennas for pagers, cell phones and even Amateur Radio repeater systems. But even as the fire encroaches on these vital communications links, the infrastructure is still in place and working.

"We have established coordination with Dennis Smith, KA6GSE, the Section Emergency Coordinator for the Los Angeles Section," said ARRL Emergency Preparedness and Response Manager Dennis Dura, K2DCD. "As of the afternoon of Thursday, September 3, no ARES® missions have been established. Of course, if the communications infrastructure at Mt Wilson is compromised in any way, area ARES® groups will be ready to do whatever is needed to provide communications support."

As of Thursday afternoon, Erika -- barely able to still be classified a tropical storm -- continues to struggle over the northern Leeward Islands, while moving slowly west-northwest. According to the National Weather Service, Erika should continue to encounter an unfavorable environment, and will likely weaken to a tropical depression late Thursday and then a remnant low at some point over the weekend.

Angel Santana-Diaz, WP3GW, an ARRL Public Information Officer in Puerto Rico, told the League that "at 8:10 AM [on Thursday, September 3], I made contact with Lionel Ellis, J69KZ, on St Lucia on 7.169 MHz, where he does a regular net. I asked him how were they doing, and he told me that there are thunderstorms and copious rain, but nothing serious on the moment. I am monitoring the band if something comes up. Over here in Puerto Rico, the government is finishing the preparations to be ready when Erika passes by, which is expected to be tomorrow, possibly as a tropical depression." The NWS said that unsettled weather will spread across the US and British Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico later Thursday, continuing through Friday. It would then spread across Dominican Republic and Haiti this weekend and possibly into the Bahamas early next week.

Pacific Hurricane Jimena -- a Category 1 storm -- made landfall near the southern Baja near San Buenaventura, Mexico on Wednesday, September 2. According to the NWS, there have been reports of damage to poorly constructed buildings, major beach erosion over the southern Baja and flash flooding; resorts along the southern tip of Baja California did not experience any major damage. Jimena has now weakened over land and has been downgraded to a tropical storm over the central Baja, with maximum sustained winds decreasing to 45 miles.

The NWS said that Jimena will likely become a depression late Thursday and then drift slowly west and southwest as a remnant low on Friday. Heavy rains and flooding will be the primary impacts over the central Baja and adjacent portions of the western coast of Mexico. Some gusts to tropical storm strength are still possible.

Dura said that WX4NHC, the Amateur Radio station at the National Hurricane Center, has also been monitoring Erika and Jimena, but did not activate for the storms. "There really aren't that many amateurs in the affected areas, which makes reporting conditions quite difficult," he said. "We here at ARRL HQ are keeping a close eye on everything."



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