Texas, Oklahoma Ham Volunteers Stand Down Following Spate of Severe Weather
Severe storms and flooding in Texas and Oklahoma that extended beyond the Memorial Day holiday weekend kept ARES and SKYWARN volunteers busy or on alert through the rest of May, which now is being crowned as the wettest month on record in both states. Texas received more than 8.8 inches of rainfall during May, while Oklahoma got a whopping 14.4 inches. Wichita Falls, Texas, saw 17 inches of rain
Flooding on the North Canadian River below the Lake Overholser Dam in Oklahoma City.
during May, while Oklahoma City got nearly 19.5 inches. The resulting flooding and property damage — with some severe wind incidents thrown in — caused numerous ARES callouts and SKYWARN net activations.
In Oklahoma, Section Emergency Coordinator Mark Conklin, N7XYO, said Amateur Radio volunteers provided communication for several American Red Cross damage assessment teams in the wake of flooding in Comanche County and elsewhere. “ARES-OK volunteers in action this month have provided 436 hours of service,” Conklin reported on May 31. “Teams were deployed to the Bridge Creek community and Comanche and Leflore counties. In addition, Conklin added, nearly every storm complex that rolled through Oklahoma spawned numerous SKYWARN nets with volunteers providing “many hours of service.”
ARES teams in his state stood down on June 2.
Flooding at Barton Springs Pool in Austin, Texas.
South Texas Section Emergency Coordinator Frank Aguilar, N5SSH, said all districts in his Section had stood down by June 1. “Weather events are over, and the forecast does not show rain for the next week or two, which means search and rescue and clean-up will be the main focus,” he said. A summary of activity showed that ARES volunteers assisted in local emergency operations centers and the Red Cross. In addition, he noted, SKYWARN nets were called up in vulnerable counties, and other ARES teams remained on standby in case they were needed.
ARRL South Texas Section Manager Lee Cooper, W5LHC, called the spate of heavy rainfall, tornadoes, and flooding over some two-thirds of his state “pretty much unprecedented” for the region. “The main event is over,” Cooper said this week. “We are looking at a approximately 10-day period of dry sunny weather in South Texas and do not anticipate any additional activations.”
This spring’s torrential rains stood in stark contrast to the severe drought the region had experienced over the past few years. May’s heavy rains have been linked to a burgeoning El Niño in the Pacific.
While fair weather returned to the region this week, forecasters fear the now rain-saturated ground could make things worse during the hurricane season, which began on June 1.
WX4NHC Reports It’s Ready for Hurricane Season
WX4NHC, the Amateur Radio station at the National Hurricane Center (NHC) in Miami, reports that it has stood the test and is ready for the 2015 Hurricane Season, which began on June 1 and will continue through November. WX4NHC conducted its Annual Station Test on May 30, at the end of Hurricane Preparedness Week. This marked the 35th year of volunteer public service by the WX4NHC Group at the NHC. WX4NHC Amateur Radio Asst. Coordinator Julio Ripoll, WD4R, said the station was tested on many frequencies and modes, including digital modes, and that all radio equipment and antennas performed well.
“The WX4NHC test event is also good practice for Amateur Radio operators worldwide, but especially in hurricane prone areas, to test their station’s ability to contact WX4NHC, should they need to during a hurricane,” Ripoll said. “It was also a good opportunity for NWS Office staff to become aware of the unique capabilities of Amateur Radio during severe weather and disaster communications, when conventional communication modes fail.”
NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center has forecast that the 2015 Atlantic hurricane season will likely be below normal, but, it added, “that’s no reason to believe coastal areas will have it easy.”
For the 2015 hurricane season, NOAA has predicted a 70 percent likelihood of anywhere from six to 11 named storms (winds of 39 MPH or higher), of which three to six could become hurricanes (winds of 74 MPH or higher). That forecast included up to two “major hurricanes” (Category 3, 4, or 5) with winds of 111 MPH or greater.
“A below-normal season doesn’t mean we’re off the hook,” NOAA Administrator Kathryn Sullivan said. “As we’ve seen before, below-normal seasons can still produce catastrophic impacts to communities.”
Ripoll said WX4NHC logged contacts during the test with some emergency communication notables. These included FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate, KK4INZ, on EchoLink and on the Florida UHF SARnet, plus a 20 meter contact with FEMA Chief Technical Officer Ted Okada, K4HNL. WX4NHC also worked ARRL Emergency Preparedness Manager Mike Corey, KI1U, and Hurricane Watch Net (HWN) Manager Bobby Graves, KB5HAV.
“Mike, Bobby, Craig, and Ted all understand very well how Amateur Radio can help their communities during and after severe weather and other natural disasters,” Ripoll said. “We expressed our thanks to all of them for their strong support of the Amateur Radio volunteers and WX4NHC.” Ripoll also expressed appreciation to SKYWARN volunteers.
“You may never know, but your efforts may someday save someone’s life,” he added.
WX4NHC during the 2015 Station Test: (L-R) Julio Ripoll, WD4R; Lloyd Kurtzman, N4LJK; Jan Lederman, K9JCL, and John McHugh, K4AG.
During the 8-hour test, contacts were made and surface reports received from many stations throughout the US and Canada, as well as in the Caribbean, Central America, and South America, Ripoll said. He noted that more than 40 D-STAR/D-RATS surface weather reports were received at WX4NHC. John Davis, WB4QDX, coordinated the D-Star/D-RATS net and reporting, Ripoll said.
“We are excited of the potential that D-STAR/D-RATS modes can produce hurricane surface reports in a similar format that is used at WX4NHC,” he said. “These reports may someday fill a very important gap in surface data during a hurricane that we could not receive on other modes.”
WX4NHC also took part in the Florida State Hurricane Exercise on the UHF SARnet, making contacts throughout Florida and with stations in emergency operations centers. SARnet currently has 25 UHF repeaters connected statewide, including one on the NHC campus.