Division and Section ARRL Leadership Prepared for Gustav
During a Sunday evening conference call among ARRL leadership volunteers in the Delta, West Gulf and Southeastern Divisions and several members of the ARRL staff, Mississippi Section Manager Malcolm Keown, W5XX, reported: "We're as ready as we're ever going to be."
That pretty much summed up the division and section-level response to Hurricane Gustav, which is forecast to make landfall in Louisiana overnight as either a Category 3 or Category 4 hurricane. Louisiana SM Gary Stratton, K5GLS, who was not able to join the conference call, was at an Emergency Operations Center in Baton Rouge.
Alabama SM Jay Isbell, KA4KUN, reported that Amateur Radio operators are staffing the EOCs in his state. Shelters have been set up to accommodate evacuees from New Orleans. He offered assistance to neighboring states, saying, "We have ham volunteers if Mississippi and Louisiana need them."
A request is pending from the South Texas section for three HF stations under the ARRL Ham Aid program set up after the Hurricane Katrina emergency.
Providing a sense of the ferocity of Hurricane Gustav, ARRL CEO David Sumner, K1ZZ, told the group that Arnie Coro, CO2KK, has reported that while Havana escaped the worst of the storm, western Cuba experienced wind gusts of 340 km/hour. Coro said it was the worst hurricane to hit western Cuba since 1944.
Asked by a local TV news reporter who was observing the conference call at ARRL Headquarters how things were different now than during the Katrina disaster of 2005, Keown replied: "Since Katrina, we've put Memoranda of Understanding in place, and we're tried to do all our homework ahead of time. We've been a lot more proactive in recruiting ham radio operators [who can provide emergency communications support]."
A follow-up conference call, also aimed at continuing to help facilitate coordination among those in the affected areas and ARRL Headquarters in Newington, was scheduled for Monday. W1AW is scheduled to be on the air to monitor the various emergency nets at 7 AM Monday.