ARRL General Bulletin ARLB010 (1998)

ARLB010 Ice storm relief effort continues

ARRL Bulletin 10  ARLB010
From ARRL Headquarters
Newington CT  January 23, 1998
To all radio amateurs

ARLB010 Ice storm relief effort continues

Some ham radio emergency communication operations across the
Northeast wound down this week as the ice storm disaster moved from
the response to the recovery phase.  Telephone service and
electricity are being slowly restored, but in many areas ham radio
remains a primary--and in some cases the only--means of
communication.  And barely more than two weeks after the initial
disaster, New Yorkers were bracing for the possibility of additional
severe ice storms.  The story to date is one of a great ham radio
response peppered with small acts of heroism and dedication.

Hams--in many cases working as ARES and RACES volunteers--continue
to operate from emergency operation centers, shelters, meals
centers, and government offices throughout the region.  In New York
alone, more than 1000 people are still living in shelters.  ARES and
RACES groups were cooperating with the American Red Cross, the
Salvation Army, and government agencies, including the National

Repairs to the utility infrastructure are expected to take months.
Ice loading from the storm brought down utility poles (one estimate
said 180,000 poles in New York will have to be replaced), countless
trees, and even steel transmission-line towers.  Several deaths are
attributed to the ice storm, and damage estimates range in the
billions of dollars.  Ham volunteers too numerous to mention
mustered to help and many have been on the job for more than a week
straight.  Simplex and HF became the rule in some areas as repeaters
were brought down by a lack of power or storm damage.  Some
repeaters were brought back up on emergency power.

The initial response to the ice storm disaster would not have been
possible without ham radio, according to Jim Edmonds, WA1KPG, who
lives near Syracuse, New York.  ''Everything was knocked out,'' he
said.  ''I've never seen a situation where everything was so
dependent on ham radio.''  A Civil Air Patrol group commander,
Edmonds was called in January 8 by CAP and soon found himself at the
Syracuse Red Cross office, training disaster relief volunteers and
coordinating ham radio efforts on behalf of the Red Cross.  ''The
first request by the Red Cross and the New York State Emergency
Management office was, 'please send us all your hams','' he said.
His wife, Sue, N2GNN, also helped out.

Across the Empire State, other hams worked with Red Cross damage
assessment teams.  Steve Auyer, N2TKX, said many hams in unaffected
parts of the state took time away from work to help out in the
disaster areas, staying in the shelters for days at a time.  Offers
of help came from New York City ARES/RACES and from as far away as
Minnesota, where residents had to deal with floods and ice last

ARRL PIC Viv Douglas, WA2PUU, in Syracuse reports that a number of
hams from Western New York traveled from shelter to shelter in
hard-hit Jefferson County moving out health-and-welfare traffic.
Ham radio was even able to get word to a Naval officer at sea,
concerned for the safety of his elderly mother who lived alone, that
she was safe and had been moved to a shelter.  Edmonds told of how
hams used multiple relays to dispatch an ambulance to an injured
elderly man in Potsdam, New York, who had managed to get word to his
daughter via his almost-dead cell phone.  The whole process took ten

Douglas said ham radio became a focal point in the shelters, too.
''When updated condition reports were being given over the ham radio,
people would run to cluster around.  It became apparent that ham
radio was the lifeline to the outside world for communication,'' she
reports.  ''Many watching asked how they could get into ham radio so
it would be available to them during times like this.  It became a
teaching experience.''

As Jim Edmonds put it: ''The guy on the street corner with the
hand-held saved the day.''

In some areas of New England, new snowfall hampered recovery
efforts.  That was the case in Vermont, where six northern counties
were declared disaster areas and more than a foot of additional snow
fell in the ice storm's wake.

All 16 Maine counties were declared disaster areas.  State RACES
Director Rod Scribner, KA1RFD, said about half of the state's
repeaters were not working after the storm, but the wide-coverage
KQ1L machine on 146.85 MHz in Dixmont stayed up.  It was that
repeater that Vice President Al Gore spoke over from RACES
Headquarters when he visited the state capital to survey the damage
earlier this month.  Scribner said parts of Maine are still without
electrical power, and he praised the efforts of hams there in
dealing with the emergency--which he characterized as the most
serious he'd ever seen in terms of the number of people affected.
''I think ham radio really did a yeoman's job in the areas affected,''
he said.  Among other activities, hams in Maine conducted
door-to-door health and welfare checks in rural areas and helped to
coordinate a Red Cross meals program in the Winthrop area.

North of the Border, Quebec was especially hard hit with ice damage
and power and telephone blackouts.  Hams in affected areas set up
round-the-clock emergency nets and assisted in the relief effort.
Without Amateur Radio, ''there is absolutely no way that many
emergency and support activities could have taken place,'' said The
Canadian Amateur Editor Rob Ludlow, VE3YE.