Hams Assist as Recovery Process Begins for Ike
Hams in Harris County -- the Texas county where Houston is located -- and the surrounding area are responding to calls to assist served agencies with Points of Distribution (POD) starting today around the Greater Houston area. These PODs, scheduled to run from 8 AM-8 PM Tuesday or until all supplies are exhausted, are set up to distribute water, ice and food to area residents dealing with Ike and that storm's aftermath.
According to Joe Gadus, KD5KTX, an ARRL Public Information Officer in the South Texas Section, members of ARES South Texas District 14 -- under the leadership of District Emergency Coordinator Jeff Walter, KE5FGA -- are manning at least six PODs in Harris County. "These hams will be providing communications between the National Guard units at the PODs and the Harris County Office of Emergency Management to coordinate the delivery and resupply of food, water and MREs (meals ready to eat) to the victims of Hurricane Ike," he said. "Most of the participating amateurs are also victims [of the storm], having suffered property losses and power outages expected to last approximately three weeks."
Bill Rimmer, N5LYG, who is assisting with the deployment, said those assisting with the PODs are required to have a mobile VHF radio with a mag mount antenna and 50 W of power. "[Hams] will most likely be transmitting from [their] car using the car battery for power."
According to ARRL South Texas Public Information Coordinator Lee Cooper, W5LHC, Texas State RACES is manning the station at the State EOC from 7 AM-10 PM until further notice, and the Saltgrass/SWLynx linked repeater system is running a linked UHF/VHF Net at the request of State EOC. "They are mostly handling reports of where there is and is not power and gas," he said. "All of us up and down I-35 corridor are all standing by awaiting requests [to assist]. We've received lots of damage reports. I suspect that the areas where we may be needed are either still blocked from access due to road debris or flooding, or possibly so much of the towns are just gone that communication [assistance] is not going to make a difference."
While Ike did not directly impact West Texas, remnants from Tropical Storm Lowell are affecting residents of that area. ARRL West Texas Section Emergency Coordinator J.T. Caldwell, WA5ZFH, reported that the levees in the town of Presidio are holding, "but water is close to the top." Just last week before Ike hit, that town was more than 11 feet above flood stage resulting from rains left by Lowell. Mexican authorities have been dumping water from their reservoirs that feed into the Rio Grande, causing that river to flood.
"Additional water is being released from Luis Leon dam in Mexico," Caldwell said. "The forecast calls for the river level to rise sequentially each day over the next four days. No one currently expects the levees to hold at that point. Residents have been advised that if they hear sirens, immediately leave and seek higher ground. The shelters here have since been combined into one shelter at the Presidio Elementary School with about 120 people in it right now."
Saying that an Incident Management Team (IMT) is scheduled to get to the area sometime this morning to oversee operations, Caldwell said that "we will hopefully have a bit more information" once they arrive.