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ARRL Deploying Ham Aid Kits to Hawaii to Assist in Possible Lava Flow Response

09/23/2014

ARRL Headquarters is deploying Ham Aid kits to Hawaii as ARES volunteers stand ready to activate in the wake of the massive Puna volcanic lava flow that has been threatening some communities on the Big Island of Hawaii. The lava originated from new “vents” in the Earth as a result of the Mt Kilauea volcano, which began erupting more than 30 years ago. ARRL Pacific Section Manager Bob Schneider, AH6J, said Tuesday that while he doesn’t believe an ARES activation is imminent, lava flows can be unpredictable, and things can change rapidly.

 

“Lava is a slow-motion disaster,” he said. “It’s not like a volcano, where the thing just blows up. It’s like a pot of soup.”

ARRL Emergency Preparedness Manager Mike Corey, KI1U, said the Ham Aid kits going out to Hawaii include HF gear as well as VHF and UHF equipment. “We’re deploying an HF kit — an IC-718 transceiver, a tuner, and a dipole — and a VHF/UHF kit.” The latter includes a mobile transceiver and power supply as well as several handheld transceivers that have been programmed with local frequencies that may be needed before they’re shipped. Corey said the Ham Aid kits are a resource available to ARRL section leadership to add capacity during a disaster or emergency response.

Schneider said that while there is no immediate need for the kits, “if they have it out there, and this thing changes, we’ll be prepared. It’s better to have it and not need it, than need it and not have it.”

Hawaii Civil Defense said Kilauea continued to erupt at its summit as of Monday, although the more than 10-mile lava flow — or “tube” — under the greatest scrutiny halted its progress toward the sea on Tuesday — at least for the time being. Authorities also are monitoring so-called “breakout” flows. No homes have been affected so far, although the molten rock is causing vegetation to burn in its path. The front of the Puna lava flow is estimated to be some 150 yards across at its widest point.

Hawaii Gov Neil Abercrombie has issued a disaster declaration for the areas that are or may be affected by the lava flow. Schneider and ARES members and officials have been keeping an eye on the situation.

“We anticipate lava may cross the main Highway 130 near Pahoa on the Island of Hawaii in 1 to 3 weeks,” Schneider announced on the Pacific Section website over the weekend. He said a “best guess” would be within 10 days. Schneider said Highway 130 is the primary commuter route for residents in several residential subdivisions that might be affected, including one that is home to some 20,000 people — what he called, “a pretty good chunk of population” overall. The governor’s proclamation has permitted authorities to open two alternative routes, in case Highway 130 has to be closed.

Hawaii Civil Defense authorities have deployed their remote emergency operations center in the affected region, and Schneider visited there a few days ago.

“The town of Pahoa is in kind of a slow panic,” he reported. “If the lava comes down and goes right to the ocean, probably the only thing that won’t be affected will be cell phones. Power and conventional telephone service will be out.” In that case, should ARES be activated, Schneider said the volunteers’ likely role would be to relay health-and-welfare traffic from affected communities.

 

 



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