Hams Provide Communications as 911 Service Goes Offline in Oregon
With snow and ice impacting all parts of the Pacific Northwest, local ARES® groups are on the job assisting served agencies, including local Emergency Operations Centers. According to District Emergency Coordinator for Oregon's District One David Kidd, KA7OZO, amateurs in Clatsop County, Oregon providing direct emergency communications support for the 911 system.
"The Clatsop County ARES Unit received a call from the County Emergency Manager on Monday afternoon to help out with 911 service," Kidd said. "The unit is helping out with this, providing 911 services for four villages and hamlets in the southern part of the county. Residents in the area have been told to go to the hams and have them relay their needed service requests to the county EOC." Hams are at fire stations or sheriff's sub-stations in the affected area.
Two ARES personnel, along with the resident deputy, are manning the sheriff's sub-station in Jewell. "They are providing 24 hour radio communication services to the county EOC with regular Net check-ins," Kidd said. "The first two hams on duty were relieved by two other hams early Tuesday morning. This will continue on a daily basis as needed, until the services are restored." On late Tuesday afternoon, Kidd told the ARRL that amateurs had been asked to stand down, as 911 service had been restored.
Kidd said that the American Red Cross is setting up shelters and warming stations in the area: "They have 70 heater meals and blankets for people that need them if they shelter there or need a hot meal. ARC personnel will be operating shelters and warming stations as long as necessary. The area is expected to be without power until after Christmas"
Kidd stressed that the other five counties that comprise Oregon's District One -- Columbia, Tillamook, Washington, Clackamas and Multnomah -- are prepared to support operations in Clatsop County if needed.
Other counties in the District, Kidd said, have been "severely impacted by snow and ice":
In Clackamas County, more than 16,000 customers are without power. "We have severe road conditions with packed ice and snow," Kidd relayed. "There are numerous wide-covering power outages all over the county that Portland General Electric (PGE) is working on as fast as they can. I have 10 inches of snow, with an inch and a half of ice on top of it, at my home right now." In Columbia County, there are reports of "major road issues with ice," but no major power issues at this time.
Chains are required in all of Washington County. There are minor power outages in the county, and the County EOC is in contact with EOCs in Vernonia and Tillamook Counties. "The Washington County Emergency Coordinator told me that on Monday afternoon, it started to snow again at his location, and an additional 2-6 inches that evening was being forecast," Kidd said.
The Tillamook County Emergency Coordinator reported that there were "phone issues" in a switching station in Sheridan. The telephone company sent people in to fix it, Kidd said, but "there was so much smoke, the repair personnel had to back out on their hands and knees. They had localized 911 capability, so emergency telephone calls are not affected, so the situation isn't as bad as it was."
Multnomah County -- home of Portland, Oregon's most populous city -- reported severe road conditions with packed ice and snow. "PGE is working on the numerous large power outages all over the county. Chains are required in the Portland area. The eastern part of the county remains under blizzard warnings, with high winds, blowing snow and terrible road conditions," Kidd said.
ARRL Oregon Section Manager Bonnie Altus, AB7ZQ, lives in Sheridan, a town in Yamhill County, just south of District One. She told the ARRL she has been without power since Sunday afternoon and does not know when power will be restored: "I fire up the generator a couple times a day so I can get online and get caught up on the news. Getting into town requires 4WD. We had our second generator hooked up to pump water from the well, but then one of our neighbors asked if we had a spare generator because their livestock water was frozen and they needed to pump water to the barn, so we put some water in the tub and filled three 15 gallon containers with water and hauled that generator down for them to use. We have a 500 gallon tank out with the well, so we can carry water in if necessary. We also have a wood stove so I have coffee and heated up soup for lunch."
According to the National Weather Service (NWS), a winter storm warning for heavy snow and freezing rain is in effect through Thursday afternoon for the North and Central Oregon coast, the Willapa Hills and the central Oregon Cascades and foothills. Additional accumulations of 1 to 2 feet are possible, with the heaviest amounts expected in the Cascades. The NWS advises that if you must travel, keep a flashlight and water in your car for emergencies.