As Gustav Pounds Louisiana, Local and Area Hams are Ready
As Hurricane Gustav roared through Louisiana, ARRL Division, Section and public information volunteers in and around the area impacted by the Category 2 hurricane, reported that they were preparing to deploy themselves and other volunteers to strategic locations once conditions allow.
In a Monday afternoon conference call coordinated by ARRL Headquarters staff, Louisiana Section Manager Gary Stratton, K5GLS, said he is expecting to head to the Baton Rouge Red Cross Marshalling Center on Tuesday. He reported that credentialing for ham volunteers who will be sent to locations requesting Amateur Radio support is being handled, and emergency nets have been activated. Louisiana Section Emergency Coordinator Jim Coleman, AI5B, expects to head to Baton Rouge Tuesday as well.
Assistant South Texas SM Mike Schwartz, KG5TL, of Muldoon, reported that 4500 New Orleans-area evacuees have been relocated to shelters in surrounding counties. He reported that about 20 ham radio operators are ready to travel to where they are needed. "When we find out, we're ready to deploy," he said.
Mississippi SM Malcolm Keown, W5XX, of Vicksburg, expressed concern about the impending effects from Gustav. He said up to 20 inches of rain could fall in central Mississippi, and tornado warnings have been issued.
Southeastern Division Vice Director Sandy Donahue, W4RU, mentioned that numerous Red Cross shelters have been set up in Georgia to handle the needs of evacuees.
Northern Florida Section Manager Paul Eakin, KJ4G, offered the services of four Winlink stations to forward messages from the states more directly affected, as needed.
ARRL Directors Henry Leggette, WD4Q, of the Delta Division, Greg Sarratt, W4OZK, of the Southeastern Division and Coy Day of the West Gulf Division also took part in the conference call, as did West Gulf Vice Director Dr David Woolweaver, K5RAV, and Delta Vice Director Karl Bullock, WA5TMC.
The purpose of the ongoing series of conference calls between key emergency communications volunteers, division and sections leadership officials and ARRL Headquarters is to facilitate communications among the participants and to respond to any requests for assistance. Dennis Dura, K2DCD, ARRL Emergency Preparedness and Response Manager, commented: "The next 24 to 48 hours is really going to dictate what kind of response we're going to have. We don't [yet] have a clear idea of what the needs are. Once those on the scene tell us what they need, we will support them. Requests for emergency communications personnel will come from Section Managers or their designees, and we as an organization will meet those requests. This storm is different from Katrina in a lot of ways. For one thing, people are much better prepared down there."
With deployments expected to begin Tuesday and Wednesday, follow-up conference calls will be scheduled each day during the extent of the emergency.