Slovenian Radio Amateurs Fill Communication Gap in Wake of Severe Weather
Amateur Radio operators in Slovenia are helping to support communication after the Eastern European nation was hit by extreme winter weather that has included heavy snow and sleet, and accompanying ice damage to power and telecommunications lines. Accumulated ice and snow took down power lines and even toppled support towers, cutting the electrical supply to a reported 25 percent of households, according to the European Union. Continued bad weather has complicated repairs to the power grid, prompting Slovenia to ask the European Union to help by providing mobile generators.
“What is happening since Thursday last week is something unseen in this region,” Miha Habic, S51FB, in Ljubljana, told ARRL. “Even the oldest persons can’t remember such [a] natural disaster, especially while almost [the] whole country is suffering.” Habic, the IARU liaison to ZRS, Slovenia’s IARU Amateur Radio society, said only the northeastern part of Slovenia has been spared. Serbia and Croatia also have been affected.
“The risks associated with winter weather continue across Europe,” said Kristalina Georgieva, the European Union Commissioner for International Cooperation, Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Response. “[T]he European Commission’s experts in crisis response will remain vigilant, keeping their national counterparts informed on any developments and ready to coordinate further assistance if needed.”
While there has been no national callout of Amateur Radio emergency operators, some radio amateurs are reported to be helping out on a local level, and others are prepared to respond if needed. Weather-related damage has disrupted the cellular telephone network and public service radio communication.
Austria was one of the countries responding to the request to provide emergency generators. Because of the uncertain communication infrastructure, the Austrian responders asked Austrian ham radio emergency operators to provide a link between the two countries using Pactor and Winlink. Austria’s Emergency Communications Coordinator Gregor Vehzely, OE1VGC, has asked radio amateurs in Europe to keep clear of frequencies supporting the links. These include 3.644 MHz (S51SLO), 3.608 and 3.617 MHz (OE3XEC), and 3.601 MHz (OE6XPD). Germany and the Czech Republic also responded to the EU request.
According to S51FB, half of the forest cover in Slovenia has been destroyed. “[I]n 3 days more wood is gone to the ground than was cut during [the] complete year,” he said, adding that rail traffic headed toward the seaport of Koper has been halted completely, and responders have been unable to reach houses in some parts of the country due to fallen trees. Military armored vehicles have been called in to supply food to some villages.
Habic confirmed that there has been no huge demand for Amateur Radio support, although repeaters were reported out in some communities. He said February 4 that the situation was “a bit more stable,” but that snow and rain predicted for some regions could mean more trouble. He said he’s already heard reports of weather-related damage to Amateur Radio, including S57DX in Vrhnika, which he said was “completely destroyed.” S50K in Logatec, and Radioclub Moravce’s S50G as well as S58M in Moravce suffered severe damage, he said.
“But due the fact that those and other locations are on remote hills, maybe the complete picture is still not available,” he added. Nonetheless, he predicted, in contests coming up, the amateur community will notice when it hears “no big competitors from Slovenia.” Habic expressed relief that there has been no loss of life connected to the extreme weather situation in Slovenia.