Oklahoma and Kansas Tornadoes: Recovery Continues
NEWINGTON, CT, May 6, 1999--As recovery operations continue in the aftermath of Monday's devastating tornadoes in the Oklahoma City area, the Salvation Army and the American Red Cross both have put out a call for additional Amateur Radio assistance. As in past emergencies elsewhere, some hams are traveling long distances to help.
Oklahoma Section Manager Charlie Calhoun, K5TTT, reports the Salvation Army has requested amateur operators starting May 7 "and probably for the rest of the week." "They need hams to act as shadows and transport units in addition to manning the canteens," Calhoun said. "They are expecting to send out 40 canteens into the field tomorrow."
Calhoun said much of the activity is going through the Edmond, Oklahoma, 147.135 MHz repeater, which can be difficult to access with hand-held transceivers. "So it is preferred that the amateurs bring with them an external mag-mount antenna, power supply (there may be AC available) and plenty of battery power, along with their mobile rig," he said.
He said volunteers should plan to stay at least four hours in the field. "They are not allowing vehicles in and out of the area, they are shuttling hams in and out." Calhoun said it appeared that Amateur Radio communication would be required at least through Saturday. He said the Salvation Army has shut down operations at night for the last two days. Volunteers should check in with the net control on the 147.135 repeater upon arriving in Oklahoma City.
Meanwhile, hams from the Tulsa area are planning to leave today for the Oklahoma City area to assist.
Ken Runyon, KC5PNO, reports that The Red Cross is requesting at least 50 amateur operators to be available all day Friday, May 7, to begin damage assessment. "Hams will start working with damage assessment teams at 7:30 AM and will be moving from home to home through the disaster area," he said. Operators will need good footwear, a two-meter radio, and batteries to last at least 10 hours. Volunteers should contact the Red Cross, 405 232-7121.
OK Public Information Coordinator Thomas Webb, WA9AFM, reports he's monitored health-and-welfare traffic on both 2 meters and 75 meters coordinating Salvation Army canteen support.
"Based on the excellent warning, most of the victims appear to have left the disaster area prior to the strike and were in contact with friends or family or were in shelters with adequate communications," he said.
Webb reports that several hams were among those affected by the storm. "Mac MacDonald, K2GKK, was wiped out," he reports. "Hal Miller, KB1ZQ, received severe damage, but the house survived" although Miller's tower was reduced to "an aluminum pretzel," Webb said. Other hams have taken in the displaced families, he said.
Jim Leist, KB5W, who chairs the Central Area Staff of the National Traffic System, said ARES and National Traffic System operators are trying--unsuccessfully in some cases--to contact people in the affected area. He reports that, instead of sending a "no response" message back, operators are attaching "op notes" to unserviceable messages indicating such things as "left message on answering machine," which tells the inquiring party that the telephone is intact, or "address given is on edge of damage area" and "checked shelters, not listed."
Melvin Miller, K5KXL, reports he was not affected by the tornadoes, but he's among those who are overwhelmed by the degree of damage and the number of deaths, which could reach 50. "You cannot imagine the distraction of the areas in Norman, and the path that the tornadoes left through Tuttle," he said. "At present they have machinery in there lifting the rubble and looking for victims after a careful hand search by emergency personnel."
David Sterley, K5WFT, in Wichita Falls, Texas, reports that Terry Mahorney, KB5LLI and Troy Fehring, N5VIN, were among the dedicated hams in the South West Independent Repeater Association who maintained contact with the National Weather Service office in Norman as the storms approached. "I think these hams are deserving of some recognition for their diligence!" he said. "My hat's off to all the hams and meteorologists at the NWS office in Norman for their dedication to Amateur Radio and the SKYWARN spotter groups in their area of coverage."
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