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ARRL Special Bulletin ARLX014 (1997)

ARLX014 Hams praised for help in wake of devastating Texas tornado

Special Bulletin 14  ARLX014
From ARRL Headquarters
Newington CT  June 6, 1997
To all radio amateurs

ARLX014 Hams praised for help in wake of devastating Texas tornado

Williamson County, Texas, Emergency Services Director John Sneed had
high praise for the help provided by Amateur Radio after tornadoes
struck that state late last month. Nearly 100 hams in Travis and
Williamson counties--prepared by past practice runs--faced the real
thing when May 27 devastating tornadoes swept through central Texas,
killing more than two dozen, injuring many others, and causing
extensive property damage. Hams from Waco to Austin were involved as
the killer storms tore through the heart of the Lone Star State.
District Emergency Coordinator Joe Fisher, K5EJL, of Austin, Texas,
says earlier training activity paid off. Last November, ARES groups
from the two counties and Red Cross participated jointly in a 6 to
7-hour-long drill. Hams tested their communication capabilities, and
the Red Cross tested its disaster response effectiveness in the event
of floods and tornadoes.

After the tornadoes struck for real, Fisher said the limited range of
Red Cross radios made it necessary for some hams to shadow Red Cross
officials and help with communication when needed. At one point, the
Austin emergency medical services director was unable to reach the
hospital in Georgetown, Texas, on the telephone to find out the
condition of the hospital and if it could receive and treat storm
victims. Fisher says a ham was sent to the hospital and was able to
relay the needed information back to Austin.

National news reports focused on the town of Jarrell, nearly
flattened by one of the several tornadoes that struck the region
during a 24-hour period. Weather forecasters say that a stationary
front was responsible for the severe weather. ''You can't imagine the
devastation until you see it,'' said Williamson County EC Dan
Poggemiller, KB5TWO, of Round Rock. Just eight years ago, another
tornado killed one person and badly damaged Jarrell, which is located
north of Austin.

Poggemiller said a two-meter repeater installed in Wallberg after the
last tornado in Jarrell ''worked flawlessly'' this time around, after
ham radio became the primary link to the outside world for a time
when the cellular telephone network went down. ''We were basically the
only communications that they had for approximately two hours,'' he
told Amateur Radio Newsline.

Sneed said the hams ''were very instrumental in continuing to provide
us the communications throughout the entire county during the
tornado. They were able to help us as far as getting information from
the tornado scene.''


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