ARRL

ARRL General Bulletin ARLB080 (1998)

SB QST @ ARL $ARLB080
ARLB080 Mississippi hams counter Georges with regional response

ZCZC AG80
QST de W1AW  
ARRL Bulletin 80  ARLB080
From ARRL Headquarters  
Newington CT  September 28, 1998
To all radio amateurs 

SB QST ARL ARLB080
ARLB080 Mississippi hams counter Georges with regional response

Hurricane Georges already has worn out his welcome, but he's not out
of steam. After devastating several Caribbean ports of call and
clobbering the Florida Keys last week, Georges spent the weekend
regaining strength in the Gulf of Mexico. Heavy rains and high winds
along the Gulf Coast, including the Florida Panhandle, Alabama,
Louisiana, and Mississippi, presaged the storm's landfall early
Monday morning near Biloxi, Mississippi.

The storm has been packing 105 MPH winds, but gusts of up to 176 MPH
were reported at Keesler Air Force Base at Biloxi. Rain totals of 25
inches along the hurricane's track were expected. Tornadoes spawned
by the storm struck shelters in Pascagoula and Gautier, Mississippi,
but no one was hurt. Concern for flooding prompted the evacuation of
more than 1-million people from New Orleans and vicinity. New
Orleans, which has a system of federally operated dikes and levees,
is below sea level and vulnerable to flooding. However, the storm
and its copious rainfall has centered more to the east, sparing
''The Big Easy.''

The FCC on Sunday declared a communications emergency in
Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas to clear 7285 and 7290 kHz during
the day and 3873 and 3935 kHz after dark (3 kHz) for emergency
traffic only. Mississippi Section Manager Malcolm Keown says hams in
Mississippi, Texas, and Louisiana have been cooperating in the storm
response. The net on 7285 and 3873 has been handling emergency
traffic for the region. The net on 7290 and 3935, run by South Texas
SM Ray Taylor, N5NAV, is handling health-and-welfare traffic.

''Disasters don't stop at section lines,'' Keown said. ''It's been a
very good cooperative effort, so this has been a very good
demonstration on how folks can get together and make it all work.''
He says hams also are cooperating with the Mississippi Emergency
Management Agency and the Red Cross.

Keown says many Mississippi repeaters have been linked for the first
time as well, so hams throughout the region can participate in the
emergency response on VHF and UHF.

Only last week, Keown said, hams in Mississippi held their Simulated
Emergency Test that included a mock response to a storm similar to
the one actually occurring this week.

Hams in Mississippi and elsewhere in the affected region have been
filing weather condition reports to W4EHW at the National Hurricane
Center via the Hurricane Watch Net on 14.325 MHz. The Hurricane
Watch Net has been in nearly continuous operation for the past 10
days. The Friendly Caribus Net on 14.283 MHz has handled
health-and-welfare inquiries.

In Alabama, SEC Joey Carter, AE4WP, reported hams were busy.
''Mobile and Baldwin counties are getting pounded, but early reports
contain no major damage,'' he said. ''There are some power outages,
some telephones out, and lots of water over roadways, but no major
structural damage.'' The Alabama Emergency Net is active on 3935
kHz.

In Northern Florida, SEC Nils Millergren, WA4NDA, reported shelters
open in three counties with more than 3000 people in Escambia County
alone taking refuge. Major flooding occurred in Escambia, the
state's westernmost county. Shelters also were open in neighboring
Santa Rosa County and in Hernando County further down the Gulf
Coast. Millergren said a VHF net was open for West Panhandle
District traffic. Hams were not expected to staff shelters unless
commercial communication was lost or help was requested. He reports
flooding has closed some roads and bridges. ARES was reported
available for emergency communication to the western panhandle
counties.

In Puerto Rico, which suffered heavy damage at the hands of Georges,
hams have continued to help, especially in areas where conventional
communication is out. ARES member Victor Madera, KP4PQ, reports
thousands still in shelters, but ''FEMA and Red Cross are doing
wonders.'' Most amateur storm recovery activity in Puerto Rico has
been on VHF, he said. ''Power is back in about 50 percent of the
island,'' he said. Central Puerto Rico was the worst-affected region
because of the mountainous terrain. Power lines knocked out there
have been difficult to reach to repair. Telephone service is spotty
in some parts of the Commonwealth.

It's been reported that tens of thousands of Caribbean residents
took refuge in shelters. Even so, more than 300 deaths now have been
reported throughout the Caribbean, many of them in the Dominican
Republic and Haiti.
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/EX