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US Southeast ARES Teams on the Job as Severe Winter Weather Strikes

02/26/2015

Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES) volunteers in the US Southeast remained on alert on February 26, as the region faces an unaccustomed ration of severe winter weather. Tennessee, which as seen at least 30 winter storm-related fatalities, was placed on a Level II state emergency operations center activation level, indicating a major disaster — an event likely to exceed local capabilities and require state and federal assistance. Tennessee Section Emergency Coordinator Daniel O’Donovan, W4DOD, said February 26 that Tennessee ARES volunteers in several counties were on standby, monitoring established nets, or actively staffing shelters and other locations. He said the American Red Cross has six shelters open in five counties, with 224 occupants.

“There are 19,700 customers without power in Tennessee over five counties,” O’Donovan said on February 26. “This is down from around 36,000 without power last night.”

States of emergency also were declared this week in Alabama and Georgia, as they and other states in the region that typically receive far milder winter weather, confronted what the National Weather Service was calling “a historic winter storm.” In North Alabama, snow accumulations of 6 inches or more were reported, and vehicle traffic was brought to a standstill on some major highways. Alabama ARES volunteers were on alert throughout Wednesday, February 25, and the American Red Cross established shelter sites for residents displaced by the severe weather.

“Due to heavy icing of roads in North Alabama and the requests for Amateur Radio operators to man Red Cross Shelters, EMAs, and the National Weather Service, I am now elevating the Section’s ARES status to Orange, invoking formal nets on the local and District Level,” Alabama Section Emergency Coordinator Mike Watkins, WX4AL, told ARES volunteers shortly before 7 PM Central Time on February 25. “I am standing by on 7243 kHz for phone, D-Star Reflector 058B, DRATS, APRS, Winlink2000, and, if needed, to transmit ICS and Radiogram forms, Fldigi with Flmsg on 7110 kHz.” Earlier in the day, the Red Cross in Alabama issued an urgent request for an Amateur Radio volunteer to staff a shelter in Cullman for 24 hours.

Alabama Gov Robert Bentley declared a state of emergency February 24 for all Alabama counties in preparation for the severe winter weather, and Georgia Gov Georgia Nathan Deal ordered a state of emergency for 51 northern counties in his state.

The National Weather Service had warned that heavy wet snow could take down power lines and trees, causing power outages across the northern tier of Alabama and neighboring states. Schools remained closed in many parts of the Southeast.

 



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