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Hams Prepare as Hurricane Ike Gets Ready to Pound Gulf

09/12/2008

After making its way over Cuba, Hurricane Ike -- currently a Category 2 hurricane, but expected to grow stronger -- has made its way into the Gulf of Mexico and is poised to wreak havoc with coastal towns in Texas and Louisiana. Hams in those states have had a bit of a breather since Hurricane Gustav came through two weeks ago, and ARRL Section leadership in Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma and Arkansas say they are ready for Ike.

This morning -- in the first of what are likely to be a series of conference calls between ARRL Headquarters and the affected Sections -- ARRL Emergency Preparedness and Response Manager Dennis Dura, K2DCD, coordinated operations between the three ARRL Sections in Texas (South Texas, North Texas and West Texas) and surrounding states. "We started these calls during Hurricane Gustav. We found that they were a great way for everyone to keep in touch. The calls also enabled us at ARRL HQ to promptly respond to the needs of the affected Sections, such as sending Ham Aid equipment."

According to ARRL South Texas Section Emergency Coordinator Mike Schwartz, KG5TL, the State of Texas has called for a mandatory evacuation of Galveston Island, certain ZIP codes in Houston and other counties in the affected area, such as Brazoria and Matagorda Counties. "People are heading out of town, up Interstate 45, out of Houston, and Interstate 290, to San Antonio," Schwartz said. Austin, the state capital, is in the South Texas Section, and Schwartz said that that city will serve as the State's marshalling center.

In September 1900, Galveston experienced the worst hurricane (a Category 4 storm in today's measurements) -- some say the worst natural disaster -- in US history; more than 8000 people perished in that storm.

In ARRL's North Texas Section, Section Emergency Coordinator Bill Swan, K5MWC, said plans are already in place for hams to assist at the various American Red Cross shelters that are set up through the region. "We will have Amateurs at the shelters to help out with communications," he said. Many coastal residents escaping from Ike are expected to head up to the North Texas Section.

ARRL West Texas Section Manager John Dyer, AE5B, said that while his Section isn't expected to feel the storm as his counterparts in the other two Sections will, hams in West Texas are ready for whatever is needed. He said that three shelters for those with special medical needs are being set up in the West Texas Section in Lubbock, El Paso and Amarillo, as well as Oklahoma. "The State is considering using the airport in Midland as a way to get in and out of the area. With the storm coming in, they don't think that the airports in Dallas [NTX] or Houston [STX] will be very usable."

In Louisiana, ARRL Section Manager Gary Stratton, K5GLS, said that communities in Southern Louisiana, as well as three counties in Mississippi, are preparing for the storm surge. "Local EOCs, as well as Parish [County] EOCs are on alert," he said.

At 11 AM (EDT) Thursday, the National Hurricane Center (NHC) reported that Ike was heading toward the Northwestern Gulf of Mexico, moving west-northwest near 10 MPH in a motion that should continue over the Central and Western Gulf of Mexico on Thursday and Friday. With top sustained winds near 100 mph, Ike is about 580 miles east of Corpus Christi, Texas, and 470 miles east-southeast of Galveston. Hurricane-force winds extended outward up to 115 miles from the center and tropical storm-force winds extended outward up to 275 miles.

If Ike keeps on its current track, forecasters are calling for the storm to make landfall along the Central Texas coast early Saturday morning as a major hurricane. A hurricane warning is in effect from Morgan City, Louisiana, to Baffin Bay, Texas; tropical storm warnings are in effect for the Southeast Louisiana and Mississippi coasts, including New Orleans.



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