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Northern Florida Hams Respond to Aftermath of Alabama Storm

05/04/2011

After the devastating storms that swept through Alabama last week, radio amateurs from the ARRLs’ Northern Florida Section -- at the invitation of ARRL Alabama Section Emergency Coordinator Greg Gross, K4GR -- are making their way to Alabama to provide assistance.

“We contacted Greg and worked out a disaster operation assignment,” ARRL Northern Florida Section Manager Paul Eakin, KJ4G, told the ARRL. “We have already sent two teams to Alabama and have five others on stand-by.”

Both teams from Northern Florida are comprised of two amateurs and equipment. Team 1 -- Eakin and Donna Barker, WQ4M -- came to Alabama with a motorhome equipped with a full command post, as well as a tow vehicle with HF and VHF/UHF capabilities. “We took spare UHF/VHF antennas and 600 feet of LMR-400, three HF stations, four VHF/UHF mobiles and the supplies to build portable HF antennas,” Eakin said.

The team was originally assigned to Hackleburg -- a town of slightly more than 1400 residents. On April 27, thetown suffered catastrophic damage when it was hit by an EF5 tornado that killed more than 30 Hackleburg residents. On May 2, the American Red Cross declared the town 75 percent destroyed. Instead, Eakin and Barker are now in Jasper, Alabama. “We are operating a net control station and providing a crossband repeater for Marion County’s Emergency Operations Center,” Eakin explained.

Norm Scholer, K4GFD, and Gary Alberstadt, KA3FZO, make up Team 2. Eakin told the ARRL that this team has a pick-up truck and a fifth wheel trailer with portable equipment and two repeaters. Team 2 is in Hackleburg. Both Team 1 and Team 2 were required to be self-contained for seven days.

“This was a very damaging tornado and it will be very long time before everything is cleared up,” Eakin said. “Greg, the Section Emergency Coordinator in Alabama, is on top of the situation as I can tell and he is doing a great job. It appears he has approximately five ‘hot spot’ areas going on at once.”



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