Colorado ARES Teams to Mobilize for Flood Damage Assessment
As rainfall tapers, ARRL Colorado Section Emergency Coordinator Robert Wareham, NØESQ, says the Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES) is mobilizing Amateur Radio operators from throughout the state to assist with damage assessment. Now in its fifth day, devastating flash flooding there has claimed at least a half-dozen lives. Hundred remain unaccounted for, untold numbers of homes have been destroyed, and more than 1000 residents are awaiting evacuation, according to media accounts.
“The [Colorado] Office of Emergency Management predicts that Amateur Radio operators will be needed next for damage assessment, as many local hams have been working 12 hours plus per day since the flooding started,” Wareham said in a post to the ARRL Colorado Section Facebook page. “Hams continue to staff evacuation shelters throughout the region and emergency operations centers (EOCs) for the state and multiple counties and municipalities.” The National Guard has been mobilized to help with evacuations and rescue operations.
Wareham said that hams not directly involved in the disaster response have been serving as storm spotters for the National Weather Service, providing reports on rainfall, creek and river levels. SKYWARN spotters have been asked to submit their rainfall totals to the Community Collaborative Rain, Hail & Snow Network (CoCoRaHS).
Colorado ARRL Section Manager Jack Ciaccia, WMØG, reposted a comment from Randy Reynard, W0RDR, of the ARES team for Douglas and Elbert counties (ARESDEC), for which Reynard heads weather operations. “I was proud to be a member of ARESDEC today,” he said over the weekend after a callout to monitor flash-flooding conditions. The eight hams who responded “operated as a team, a well trained and coordinated team,” he said. “People knew what to do, where to go, how to do what was needed, and we provided the information that was needed when and where it was needed. We were instrumental in providing much needed observations to [the National Weather Service] and Douglas County [Office of Emergency Management].” Reynard said Douglas and Elbert counties were fortunate not to have received as much flood damage as other areas of the state.
Some five dozen ARES volunteers remain deployed in and around flood-stricken counties of Colorado, supporting communication for Red Cross shelters and state and local emergency operation centers. Ciaccia said late last week that with power cut off to affected communities and many cell telephone towers toppled by the flood waters, ham radio has been providing medical and health-and-welfare traffic between evacuation centers and the EOCs.
“Every EOC is being staffed by ARES people,” Ciaccia told ARRL. “Almost every evacuation center has an ARES communicator, doing either voice or packet communications between EOCs and shelters.”
On Saturday, September 14, US Congressman Cory Gardner (R-4) visited the state emergency operation center to express his appreciation to the Amateur Radio operators responding to the historic flooding disaster. Rep Gardner asked Wareham to extend his thanks to all ARES members staffing positions in the field as well.
Boulder County has deployed miniature drone aircraft carrying Amateur TV cameras to survey the affected, more remote regions, for now to spot individuals who may need to be rescued. Ciaccia said the drones — a fixed-wing aircraft and a hybrid gas/electric-powered helicopter — have been transmitting ATV video via UHF to the ground and simultaneously recording the video on a memory stick.
Wareham said hams beamed color video to emergency managers of the flight line at Boulder Airport as the National Guard airlifted supplies and rescued individuals.