Texas Hams Braced for Ike
As Tropical Storm Ike slowly weakens over Southeast Texas, hams in the three ARRL Texas Sections -- South Texas, North Texas and West Texas -- are assisting served agencies that are coping with the after-effects of was once a Category 2 hurricane. At 2:10 Saturday morning, Ike made landfall with the eastern part of Galveston Island with sustained winds reaching 110 MPH; just eight hours later, Ike, slowing down considerably, only had winds measuring at 80 MPH, and only at 45 MPH by 4 PM. In a conference call on Saturday morning with League Headquarters, ARRL Section Leadership from Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Mississippi and Arkansas said hams in their respective Sections were ready for whatever Ike brought their way.
ARRL South Texas Section Emergency Coordinator Mike Schwartz, KG5TL, reported that hams in his Section have been "working all through the night and into the morning. Our ARES® groups have been working hand-in-hand with RACES. We've been working very well together, and we are handling all their message traffic."
Schwartz said that he had received three Ham Aid kits for use in the Section: One went to the Jackson County EOC, one went to New Braunfels to support a Texas Guard Maritime Regiment there "and we're keeping the other one on hold in case it's needed after the storm goes through."
Saying that none of the shelters opened in his Section have asked for Amateur Radio support beyond their local area, hams are "very active" in local Emergency Operations Centers. As far as damage goes, Schwartz said that the Orange County area was hit pretty hard by Ike: "Rocky Wilson, N5MTX, the Emergency Coordinator in Orange, said there has been a lot of infrastructure damage there."
Schwartz said that as for now, "We are hunkered down. We'll know more tomorrow as the storms begin to move on out. We do know that we will need some help after Ike is done and gone."
ARRL North Texas Emergency Coordinator Bill Swan, K5MWC, echoed Schwartz's remarks concerning ARES/RACES coordination: "Through all of Ike, we here in the North Texas Section have seen a great level of cooperation between our folks and the RACES folks. It's excellent to see this level of cooperation."
Swan said as of 9:30 AM (CDT) Saturday, none of the shelters in the North Texas Section have requested Amateur Radio support, "but that might change when or if the situation worsens or more people start arriving at the shelters. So far, the communications infrastructure here is in place."
According to John Chapman, KC5MIB, 1700 people are in shelters in Nacogdoches; Chapman is heading up amateur operations at the Nacogdoches EOC. "We're putting people in churches and a couple of schools," he said. "As of 2 PM, we have had three shelters request communications support. We have a ham at those three shelters, one at the Nacogdoches City EOC and another at the Nacogdoches County EOC, as well as a couple of storm spotters on the ground."
According to ARRL Emergency Coordinator for Dallas County L.D. Carpenter, K5LD, ARES members were stationed at the main reception area in Mesquite, Texas to receive bus and private vehicle counts, along with pertinent information necessary for the housing of about 4000 evacuees coming to North Texas. "The information ARES members gained was reported to the EOC Net control and it was used to determine the placement of the evacuees. This proved to be an invaluable service." All of the Emergency Management staff members at the Dallas County EOC are hams, Carpenter said.
Dallas County Director of Emergency Management Robie Robinson, KC5RJR, concurred, saying that the information that ARES members accumulated was "the most important link in our operation."
With the Dallas- Fort Worth area looking to be on the western edge of the storm, Swan said that hams in that area are monitoring conditions closely: "We are ready to provide support to that area and to the Louisiana Section as the storm tracks toward the east."
ARRL West Texas Section J. T. Caldwell, WA5ZFH, said that "everything is ready. No one at this point has been activated."
In Louisiana, Section Manager Gary Stratton, K5GLS, reiterated the other Section Managers' comments about ARES and RACES interoperability: "We've been sharing operating with RACES since Day One," he said. "We've even had an Army MARS unit from Savannah, Georgia deploy here to assist the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) at the airport in Lake Charles."
Stratton said he has been monitoring the various Nets supporting Hurricane Ike operations. "From what I've heard," he said, "there has been significant flooding in Lake Charles due to the storm surge. Interstate 10 was even closed last night." The highway, while it does not run directly along the coast, does cross the southern part of the state, going through New Orleans. "We have had several reports of tornadoes in Central Louisiana, and tornado watches have been issued in several parishes."
Stratton was quick to point out that while there has been what he called significant storm surge flooding along the Gulf Coast, the City of New Orleans was not affected. "While that city is safe," he said, "levees south of the city have been breached."
Saying that there is an Amateur Radio presence at the National Weather Service office in Lake Charles, hams in Louisiana will "watch and wait for now. We will support operations in the North Texas and South Texas Sections when requested to do so."
Adjacent states and Sections are standing by in case their services are needed.
Progression of Ike
At 4 PM (CDT) Saturday, the center of what is now Tropical Storm Ike was located just southeast of Tyler, Texas, or about 50 miles south-southwest of Mount Pleasant, Texas and about 105 miles southwest of Texarkana, Arkansas. The center should reach Southwestern Arkansas tonight. As the center moves inland, Ike could turn into a tropical depression.
Forecasters at the National Weather Service said that Ike is moving along at about 18 MPH and should turn later this afternoon or evening in a north-northwesterly direction. Later tonight and into tomorrow, Ike will turn to the northeast, increasing in forward speed.
According to the NWS, tornado threats exist over portions of Northeastern Texas, Northern Louisiana, Southern Missouri and much of Arkansas.
ARRL staff volunteering their time to monitor frequencies include: ARRL Chief Development Officer Mary Hobart, K1MMH; Contest Branch Manager Sean Kutzko, KX9X; Regulatory Branch Manager Dan Henderson, N1ND; Field and Regulatory Correspondent Chuck Skolaut, K0BOG; DXCC Manager Bill Moore, NC1L; W1AW Station Manager Joe Carcia, NJ1Q; Khrystyne Keane, K1SFA; Membership Manager Katie Breen, W1KRB, Assistant Editor Steve Sant Andrea, WB2GYK, and Web Developer Hugh Brower, KB1NFI.