Eastern Seaboard ARES, SKYWARN Volunteers Prepare for Potentially Historic Storm
[Updated 2015-01-26 @ 2005 UTC] Snowfall that started early this morning in the Mid-Atlantic States was just the first hint of what weather forecasters are calling a potentially historic and dangerous winter storm that is predicted to affect the entire Eastern Seaboard of the US. In addition, the gathering storm carries the threat of high winds, blowing and drifting snow, “whiteout conditions,” and possible — perhaps likely — power outages. A state of emergency has been declared in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, and Massachusetts, and Connecticut Gov Dan Malloy ordered a statewide travel ban effective at 9 PM on Monday, January 26. ARRL Headquarters will be closed on Tuesday, January 27. Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES) organizations in states that could experience blizzard conditions later today and into January 27 are already gearing up.
Eastern Pennsylvania Section Manager Joe Ames, W3JY, reported that the Eastern Pennsylvania Phone and Traffic Net has been put on standby/watch mode on 3917 kHz. “We anticipate no particular activation in Eastern Pennsylvania,” he said, “but if it’s as bad as predicted, we’ll assist however we can.” Snow has already begun falling in Eastern Pennsylvania.
New York City/Long Island Section Manager Jim Mezey, W2KFV, said, ARES teams in his Section “are ramping up to assist, if necessary.” He said the American Red Cross has indicated it may open three shelters on Long Island, but local emergency managers have not yet requested any ARES support.
Eastern New York SEC David Galletly, KM2O, has raised the readiness of all county groups in his Section for possible deployment in the storm’s aftermath. He notes that all New York Southern District counties — except Sullivan County — are under a blizzard warning, with the remainder of his Section under a winter storm warning. He said ARES units in the Southern District counties are on standby for possible American Red Cross shelter communication support duty. Galletly said snow has started to fall in the southern area of his Section at a rate of 2 to 3 inches per hour. Orange County was planning to activate its emergency operations center (EOC) today.
Galletly said that while the lightweight snow may drift more easily, it would be less likely to bring down power lines. “Look for possible closures of I-84 and I-87, south of Exit 17,” he said. “SKYWARN reportable conditions include snow totals, drifting, road closures, etc.”
“All group members should take steps now to secure their own and their families’ safety,” Galletly advised. “Please prepare alternate power and heat sources and charge all batteries. Monitor NWS and news sources for the progress of this storm.” He noted that the monthly Eastern New York Section ARES/RACES HF Net was still scheduled for Tuesday evening at 7:30 PM on 3993 kHz, “subject to change as conditions warrant,” and will be turned into a storm net if necessary.
Connecticut ARES Section Emergency Coordinator Wayne Gronlund, N1CLV, said a blizzard warning is in effect for the tri-state area (New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut), and snowfall totals could exceed 2 feet. Gronlund has raised the Connecticut ARES activation status to Level 2 (standby, but ready to deploy) and asked his volunteers to continue assisting partner agencies, should the need arise. Gronlund emphasized that ARES volunteers should not deploy without direction from the appropriate ARES or local official.
“Above all, stay safe!” he added.
Connecticut Section Manager Betsey Doane, K1EIC, said all ARES District Emergency Coordinators have been asked to let Red Cross offices in their areas know that ARES is available, if needed. “Red Cross shelters lately are opening after the storm settles, unless otherwise needed,” she said. “The usual activities are going on, with batteries being charged and go kits ready.”
Doane said the Connecticut Digital Mobile Radio network was up and running, with ARES officials monitoring, and the state EOC is tied in with the Connecticut ARES network.
In Maine, store traffic has been brisk in coastal areas as residents stock up on necessary food, fuel, and supplies as well as generators, additional batteries, and auxiliary heaters, in case of a power outage. Maine SEC Phil Duggan, N1EP, has placed Maine ARES on a Yellow Alert (Level 1), due to the approaching storm, which is forecast to reach the state sometime after midnight. In a Yellow Alert, ARES/RACES members are advised that they may be called up and should monitor available ARES nets and public safety radios as well as weather radios and broadcast radio and TV to stay current with the situation. Duggan said the NWS office in Caribou — in Maine’s northernmost tier — has requested that he call up some Maine ARES weather and SKYWARN nets on 75 meters to collect ground-level weather information during and after the storm for relay to the NWS offices in Caribou and Gray, Maine.
The approaching storm has caused airlines to cancel some 5000 flights so far. Schools have called for early dismissal in parts of New Jersey. New York anticipated closing the New York Thruway and the Long Island Expressway. The entire New York City subway system may be shut down by this evening.