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Louisiana ARES Returning to Normal Status in Storm-Affected Parishes

09/09/2021

Louisiana ARES Section Emergency Coordinator James Coleman, AI5B, said this week that Amateur Radio Emergency Service® (ARES®) teams in his Section “should now be on normal status, with the affected parishes’ status as appropriate for local conditions.” Emergency Coordinators in some hard-hit parishes have activated volunteers for relief and recovery operations. More than 30 parishes were affected by the storm, although cell telephone outages in the affected area stood at 3.7% as of September 8 and recovering rapidly. All 911 systems were reported operational as of September 8.

The Louisiana ARES Emergency Net now is on standby. “If it becomes necessary, the net will be active from 2 PM to 6 PM CDT on 7.255 MHz, and from 6 PM to 10 PM CDT on 3.878 MHz,” Coleman’s report said. The Louisiana Traffic Net is operating 7 days a week at 6 PM CDT on 3.910 MHz.

ARRL Headquarters shipped Ham Aid kits to Louisiana Region 3 for use during their recovery efforts. Region 3 District Emergency Coordinator (DEC) Miriam Barrett, KG5BNH, and St. Mary Parish’s Emergency Coordinator Jacki Price, KA5LMZ, have coordinated their efforts to assist the Council on Aging in Terrebonne Parish. The Ham Aid kits include equipment for HF, VHF, and UHF, including hand-held transceivers and “base station” antennas.

The W5RAR VHF repeater (146.805 MHz) was in use over a four-parish area — La Fourche, St. Charles, St. John, and Terrebonne, which suffered significant wireless system damage as well as a 911 system outage in St. John Parish. The St. Charles emergency operations center was transmitting requests via the LWARN 440-MHz linked repeater system to WB5LHS.

A communications team in support of Florida Baptist Disaster Relief established operations in a communications trailer at the Metairie Baptist Church. The Jefferson Parish Emergency Operations Center (EOC) with DEC Nick Frederick, W4NDF, and the City of Kenner EOC with Mary Vernoy, WB5IOE, assisting maintained a VHF net. Kenner’s fiber optic cable that provided internet was cut by Entergy so it could access one of its lines for repair. That left “two erratic cellphones and a VHF net” as the only communications Kenner had with Jefferson Parish. Vernoy had to climb onto the roof of the EOC to pick up the 2-meter antenna that had been knocked down by wind. She was cheered by the arrival of the Baptist team from Florida.

Gordon Gibby, KX4Z, reported that Metairie was hard-hit, with power out and boil water notices, although the areas around hospitals have had power restored. “Hams can be a big benefit by partnering with organizations like Florida Baptist and work to meet their specific communications needs,” said Gibby, who has connections with the Florida group and drove from Florida to help out for a day. He said hams were “somewhat embedded” within the volunteer organization.

A report from Tangipahoa Parish said that as weather conditions deteriorated on August 29 — the day Hurricane Ida made landfall — local repeaters lost power and went on battery backup. Two repeaters were lost when a tower collapsed. Formal weather nets were not conducted to conserve power for emergency transmissions only. As of September 6, both the WB5NET and W5TEO repeaters remained on battery pack-up power and conserving power.

Elmer Tatum, N5EKF, reports that, as of September 8, all of the repeaters in Ascension Parish Region 2 remain off the air, and two of them — the 145.31 and 146.985 repeaters — sustained damage. The 147.225 repeater has no power. Two radio amateurs at the state emergency operations center staffed the EOC for some 20 hours straight. Tatum relieved them on Monday, August 30, and passed “quite a few messages” for the St. Charles EOC via the 146.805 and 444.350 repeaters, including one request for an ambulance. Some parish emergency operations centers passed traffic via VHF simplex.

ARES Region 2 Assistant District Emergency Coordinator Michael Nolan, KD5MLD, reported that four Region 2 objectives were accomplished during the storm, all involving major challenges. These included establishing amateur radio communication with the state EOC, Region 2 EOC, and the American Red Cross; requesting implementation of auxiliary communication rapid response teams to assist served agencies; promoting to parish EOCs the value of real-time situation reports from radio amateurs operating from their homes, and to educating amateur radio emergency operators to become embedded with their served agencies prior to activation. — Thanks to Louisiana ARES Section Emergency Coordinator James Coleman, AI5B

 



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