Tuesday, December 23, 2008

UPDATE: Damage to Sonnetheil House

The owner reports that there was 7 feet of water in his 21st @ Seeley neighborhood. Even though his house sits several feet above street level, there was still over a foot of water on the first floor causing damage to: kitchen appliances (to be replaced), rugs & furniture (being cleaned), original parquet flooring (narrow parquet and lathing warped, floors buckled - most likely not salvageable), walls (converted from plaster to sheet rock can be repaired), period wall paper (will need to be replaced), elevator (apparently undamaged), floor tile in first floor bath (damage unknown)outside a/c units (total loss), Carriage House (ground floor kitchen and bedroom to be gutted and replaced). Insurance claim: denied. He had hurricane insurance (damage from wind). The bulk of his damages was caused solely by flooding. Many of the houses in the neighborhood were at or closer to street level and were far more heavily damaged.

Saturday, October 11, 2008


Don't totally ignore the following previously expressed sentiment - it gets lonely around here. "It appearing that no one is reading this blog, I see no point in continuing it further. Too bad. In the ramble of personal observations there is some real information of interest and importance. I'll not remove the blog because at least the links have merit. If you've stopped by, thank you for your time and interest. If you'd like to leave a comment saying at least you've dropped by, I would appreciate it. One always hopes one hasn't totally wasted one's time."

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Post Hurricane Ike

On Saturday, September 12th I was asked to show up at the EOC to input data regarding evacuees who were already in the 2 then-open shelters in Arlington. I got there about 8:30 and left at 1:30 in the morning. Around noon on Sunday the CERT coordinator called to say Arlington was opening 2 more shelters and to see if I could help register Beaumont evacuees who were in transit from Tyler. Their previous shelter had been an abandoned Wal-Mart crammed with almost 1,500 evacuees, limited rest room facilities, no showers, mold & mildew, an unscreened criminal element and fights aplenty. We were really concerned a second move would be too much for some of them. Instead, many said they felt blessed to get out of there and find themselves in a large Lifestyle Center at Lake Arlington Baptist Church. The first thing many did was shower! And say repeated "Thank You" 's. I am scheduled to volunteer on Monday, provided that a shelter has a need. Some will be open through next week. After that those that are unable to return home will likely be moved to a long-term shelter or find a FEMA approved hotel or motel room. Unfortunately, even if they get free housing for a month, they lose the benefit of free medical care and dinners available at the shelters.

UPDATE on Sonnenfield House: My daughter was told the owner was evacuating ahead of the storm, but when I was looking at the after-Ike satellite photos, I spotted what had to be a red vehicle in the drive way. Unfortunately, he stayed one night too long and woke to find his truck already flooded and ended up having to ride it out. The house sits 6 blocks from The Strand. The Strand was flooded and impassable on Thursday. While the huge storm surge created by winds and a monster-sized storm crashed against the Seawall everyone expected to protect them (to a certain point, anyway), the surge itself flowed into Galveston Bay, around the island and flooded the unprotected harborside - something apparently unexpected, particularly that far in advance of the storm itself. Flooding caused a backup in the storm sewer system and it was bubbling up through the neighborhood storm drains, which caused a good part of the mid-island flooding. Further, the waves crashing against the seawall dumped tons of water on the roadway which then flowed down and into the neighborhoods as well. The first floor of the carriage house (garage with apartment on top) was destroyed. The house, despite sitting up several feet above ground level, had 2' of water in it. Needless to say furniture, carpet, equipment, drapes were all damaged as it had not been moved upstairs. Owner believes since the water went down almost as quickly as it came up, some of that can be salvaged. The original hand-laid parquet flooring buckled from the water in the wood. It can be salvaged and relaid. Wall covering on the first floor will likely have to be replaced. I'm not sure whether current owner replaced the original lathing and plaster with sheet rock when he remodled, but in any event lower portions of the walls will likely have to be cut out and replaced. The house has huge storm shutters. Because the winds were less than expected and it has weathered much higher wind speeds, it is likely none of the glazing nor stained glass was damaged. I have no information what damage was done to the filigree/gingerbread that covers the exterior of the house. One tree fell but missed the house. Owner's wife was somehow able to get on the island on Monday, 9/15, and evacuated owner and 2 neighbor families. He apparently has already returned to the island to assist in debris removal and clean-up.

Link to photos of Sonnetheil House: http://home-and-garden.webshots.com/album/566801016kobbIG

This satellite photo taken 9/17 shows the location of the Sonnentheil House. For a larger image click on the photo. To see a large 1.4MG .jpg of this entire area of Galveston, including part of the Cruise Terminal, The Strand, and with the neighborhood highlighted (Sonnentheil House and Carriage House is lower left):


Link to NOAH with incredible post-Ike satellite photos of the Texas Gulf coast. Double click image for full-size image. These are 3 to almost 4MG's so may take a while to open. Because the photos are angled you will see all white at fist. Scroll down or all the way right to begin viewing the images.


Friday, September 12, 2008

Hurricane Ike

Though I'd been expecting to hear something from the Arlington EOC either for assistance with EMST or CERT, no news at all, other than that the National Preparedness Month push at 3 local superstores had been cancelled. I don't believe that any of the Arlington shelters are being activated. Nor have I heard or seen any requests for volunteers from the Red Cross on this side of the Metroplex. There are calls out from Dallas, who has already found it necessary to add 400 beds to it's 1000 bed shelter at the Convention Center, and from Austin. The City of Fort Worth is accepting evacuees. Because of probably flash floods and potential tornados as it moves through this area (depending on where it makes landfall), RACES is on standby. The latest report is that the line has shifted a bit further west putting Tarrant County closer to the center of circulation means a higher liklihood.

Update: Not 10 minutes after I originally posted this I got a call to see if I am available to monitor the Tarrant County Repeater at 146.94 and/or 442.400. I've been listening off and on and haven't heard any traffic, but I understand buses are headed this way. Update: I listened from home and there was essentially no radio traffic. I never was called to go in.

My DD decided 6:30 this morning would be a good time to call and ask if I had a different phone number for her Dad in Houston to offer a safe place. She's been unable to reach him, which is no surprise - long story. She was able to contact a friend who fully rennovated and restored (a lot of his own carpenter's handiwork) the Sonnentheil House, one of the homes that survived the 1900 hurricane. He had already evacuated. Since the Strand (which is already flooding from the harbor side of the island) and the Gulf are each only 4 or 5 blocks in opposite directions from its location on 21st street, with a 20' storm surge it's probably a given that the lower floor of his home is going to be innundated, which will be a horrible shame. The trees have likely weathered far worse winds. If you'd like to see additional photos, including an outstanding stain glass window on the stair landing:


Saturday, September 6, 2008

Debrief on CERT Shelter activities

Monday, Sept 1st: Gung ho with energetic good intentions and ready to assist, several CERT volunteers rapidly deployed as soon as we got the call to show up at the large Salvation Army facility in Arlington. Living only 5 minutes away, I was the 2nd to show up from CERT about 11:45 noon. Four buses were on their way from some parish south of New Orleans, which would stop in Mesquite for medical attention and to be registered, then sent on to Arlington - or so the story went. In addition to us, there were numerous citizen and other former Salvation Army volunteers. Way too many. The Salvation Army set up cots in their gym for 194 guests. The Guests were to be admitted to the facility through the chapel where they would register, have their ID's checked and be given bracelets to identify them as being an individual allowed to be in the buildings. Following that they were to be taken to the gym where they would be assigned a cot and could take showers. A separate dining room was to feed 50 at a time.

Hours passed and no one knew where the buses even were. In addition to a dozen police officers and some firemen/EMT's, there were news crews from all the major affiliates and a couple of the local channels. One even did a live broadcast at 5. But no Guests had arrived. At 6:30 we were told to stand down and go home. Which is when I discovered I'd locked my keys in the car while juggling McDonald burgers and drinks at lunch. I managed to wave down the last volunteer just before he left the parking lot. He was kind enough to drive me home for the extra set of keys I normally carry in my purse.

I never heard from Tarrant County RACES who had emailed a plea for radio operators to handle shelter communications in the rest of Tarrant County. Arlington decided not to use radio communications after all, but judging by how difficult it was to reach anyone in charge (meaning paid employee) at the Arlington EOC by phone, I think that was a mistake. I would have liked to have been there to see what it is they were doing.

Tuesday: I was up at 6 waiting for email from the Arlington EOC. After 8 I called the CERT coordinator to find out what assistance was needed and was told he would have to call me back because the paid employees were in a meeting. An hour or so later he called to say the buses were in Dallas and soon on their way, and he would let me know. I was thinking maybe an hour. So I did some chores then sat by the phone waiting , and finally just dozed off. When I woke just before noon, I discovered that instead of calling there was yet another email asking who was available. So I called only to find out 2 buses had already arrived and they already had enough CERT volunteers at the Salvation Army. I was told to show up around 4 to relieve them. Ok. I was preparing to leave when I got a call to tell me to wait until 6. I asked about a large church who was expecting 4 buses. I was called back several minutes later and told me to go there instead. When I arrived, I was told I could not enter their shelter area until I had had the Red Cross background check. I showed them my city ID and explained I had already had one. I got a blank stare, so I called the EOC only to find the volunteer coordinator somewhat befuddled and side-tracked. When I was told the background check would only take 2 minutes, I told the EOC volunteer to forget it, Then I discovered background check required personal information typed into a website. As soon as I hit send, I was allowed in to the shelter area. I got an email Friday saying it had been completed and I could view it online. It was, of course clear. I've never even had a traffic ticket. What they are really screening for are persons convicted of crimes against children and violent felons. It was apparent as soon as we walked into the shelter it already had an abundance of volunteers. I asked their shelter manager what specifically I could do. He answered "uhhhhhhh?." So I asked if they really needed additional volunteers. "No." They had in 3 buses and had been told the 4th had already turned around. The coordinator commented he didn't know if they'd even need a shelter more than 1 night. So I left and drove 5 minutes to the Salvation Army to see if anyone needed a break. It was just after 4. There were many people just standing around waiting for something to do. The CERT volunteers had already departed.

As it turned out, my services weren't needed. The shelters closed after 2 nights because all the evacuees were able to go back home. I was disappointed that after all that waiting that I wasn't able to assist anyone, but I grateful that those that needed services were able to return home so quickly.

GRATUITOUS PUPPY UPDATE: Sisal may have found a home - IN QUEBEC!!

Update One year Later: The pups were one year old on April 4th, 2009. They are all still with daughter. With Mom that makes 4 big dogs.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

GUSTAV - Tarrant County Shelter Activation

From Tarrant County RACES with the latest information for this area- received at 11:36 p.m.

At this hour, we have reports on ONE shelter being activated. This shelter was brought online before the 8am expected opening, to receive evacuees that arrived by bus. The rest of the shelters are expected to be ready to open at 8am.
The flights carrying as many as 4100 evacuees are still expected to happen tomorrow.
Additional Buses are expected, with an uncertain number of evacuees.
Current Situation:
RACES Support has been requested for Four Fort Worth City Shelters, the TC Evacuee Hub, and the Fort Worth EOC. We currently have an open need for RADIO Operators for these locations as early as 8am on Sunday 8-31-08. TC RACES will start operations under ARES Mode before 10am on Sunday on the 146.940 repeater. Members do not have to check-in to the net, unless you are offering assistance at that time. Additional Nets\Frequencies will be added as traffic or logistics deem necessary, but 146.940 will we used as the primary net for the duration of our activation.
Anticipated Changes:
While we do not self deploy, we have been told to expect a request for TC RACES support for as many as 8 additional shelters in Tarrant County, and to coordinate\staff with any other participating EOCs.
Action Plan:
If you are able to assist with communications for Shelter Operations or EOC support, at any point in the near future, now is the time to step forward. TC RACES Membership is highly encouraged but not required to provide assistance. At this hour, we believe ARES Mode will be sufficient for the majority of this event.
If you are willing to help and assist, please do not self activate to any of the shelter or other locations. To offer your assistance, please email your information and prepare your go-kit. We will be calling volunteers as soon as we have an assignment available.

With all good intentions / Hurricane Gustav

My apologies. I had every good intention of keeping this an active up to date blog. Life has a way of ....

MAY SHELTER EXERCISE: In May the City of Arlington had a Shelter Exercise as part of a statewide hurricane preparedness exercise. To my surprise, I was assigned as NET control for radio communications between the field and the Office of Emergency Management. The photo is of me after I set up the radio Go Kit and antennaes on the sidewalk because the Fire Departments new Mobile Command Center had not yet arrived. I'd never done it on my own, but in the past I've worked with the television crew at church, took video production at UTA, and since I know how to set both the VCR and cable converter box clock wasn't any big deal.

Irish Hancock, seated, is head of the Arlington Office of Emergency Management. Fire Chief Silvius, was Incident Commander for the exercise. The AFD MCC has a lot of high tech electronics, ultra high speed internet connections and closed circuit television, and the walls are all white board material for floor to ceiling writing purposes. This was purchased with a grant, from Homeland Security I believe.

The Emergency Medical Unit modules (or pods as they are called) can be located, inflated and equipped with beds, medications and supplies in about 30 minutes. These are used for both triage and minor care only so that only the severely injured are transported to area hospitals so as not to overwhelm emergency rooms. These will be used in a variety of situations, including severe weather events, toxic or biological hazards, etc. The reason these were here was so that assigned hospital staff could get hands on training in erecting the EMU's. This part of the exercise was in conjunction with, but separate from the Shelter Exercise. These are 2 50' long Quonset hut shaped inflatable EMU's that are set up to form a T. It's quite amazing to see these go from roll of white "plastic" to field emergency clinic in such a short time!

Below are just some of the many CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) members who participated and assisted in the Exercise. The particular job of these CERT members was to check in every person and vehicle who arrived on the site, including Police and Fire personnel. Name not on list or no valid ID, no entry. It was our first CERT community exercise, so we were learning as well. I am CERT trained and qualified but because I am a radio operator I end up providing communications while the rest will be assigned particular activities by the Incident Commander as needed. Each person involved was also supposed to check out through them. The obvious purpose is to make sure everyone has safely exited the site. However, on this day in this city park and due to the location of the parking lot off to the side rather than straight down the drive, and the lunch hour having already passed most people walked across the grassy lawn to their cars, and though a few followed the check-out procedure, it's definitely one of those things that needs to be worked on.

The shelter part of the "shelter exercise" was some distance from where I was located inside the Mobile Command unit. I understand it consisted of emptying and inventorying the trailers that carry the shelter supplies. There was some confusion about where the trailers were to park, and one ended up in a different parking lot. It didn't go exactly as planned, but one of the purposes of this exercise was to find out what was done right and what needed better preparation and execution. All in all it was a really interesting morning, and because I had never been a Net Controller before, quite a lesson for me as well. [Net Controller is the radio operator through whom all radio messages are relayed rather that one operator calling another direct. While that can be done, of course, in emergency situations it is critical that all messages be kept on one frequency so that they can be logged and everyone knows what everyone else is doing. Each operator contacts the Net Operator by stating his or her call sign (in situations like these it would be something like Shelter 1, or EMU 2 rather than the individual's radio call sign.) The Net Operator repeats back the call and asks for information, confirms it, then passes it along to wherever it needs to go. This was a fairly low-key exercise, so there was little radio traffic. Which is good since my only prior exposure to Net Control procedures is in participating in the RACES net during severe weather.


We had some severe weather later in the spring, but since nothing comes immediately to mind, Arlington missed the worst of it.


HURRAY!!! In June I was finally approved as a member of Tarrant County RACES. Some of the more notable things that RACES does is storm spotting in correlation with the National Weather Service, provide communications in emergency situations when non-RACES operators are banned from normal frequencies, provide communication assistance for local events such as Fort Worth's Mayfest, the Cowtown marathon, the Christmas Parade, etc. In Arlington the Arlington Amateur Radio Club and members of the Emergency Management Support Team provide radio communications for more local emergencies, Arlington's long-held and televised 4th of July Parade etc. Next year we'll be involved with the opening of the new Cowboy Stadium, a large Cinco de Mayo celebration, and upcoming in the future are perhaps a Final Four, and certainly the 2011 SUPER BOWL!!


As of the day I FINALLY post this, Hurricane Gustav has just crossed Cuba and is entering the Gulf of Mexico. I've already received emails from both Tarrant County RACES and the Arlington Office of Emergency Manage seeking dozens of volunteers for communications between various shelters and OEM's across Tarrant County. Resources, both human and material, are being marshaled and are awaiting deployment as soon as they know where Gustav is most likely to make landfall. The State Office of Emergency Management is coordinating counties and communities so that each can provide the assistance in a preplanned manner. DFW has been assigned 4100 evacuees. 1000 will be housed at the Dallas County Convention Center. The rest will be spread out across the DFW Metroplex. Arlington will have 4 shelters available; 3 run by the Red Cross and 1 by the Salvation Army. We were advised to get our "Go Kits" together (duffles or backpacks with personal items for at least 24 hours, together with radio gear, batteries, etc.), and to stand by for assignment. We expect to start shelter operations Sunday afternoon.

10:57 PM update. I just got an email from the Coordinator for Tarrant County RACES. I'm on his list for the first wave of volunteers. I need to forward a copy to Ben at the Arlington EOC so he can claim me first if he needs to and I can pull my name off Andy's, or at least make sure I don't need to be in 2 places at the same time. Maybe I'd better get some sleep!



April 30th - Not quite 4 weeks old:

They will be 5 months old on the 9/4. Officially they are now doglets. Reggie, the gorgeous grey guy, was taken by daughter's next door neighbor who then moved back to California on July 4th with promises of photos and updates. Since she hasn't responded to email nor returned a single phone call, I am sick with the feeling that something happened to him and she just doesn't want us to know. Merida, the white one, will likely go to daughter's childhood friend and her family, though that's the one I would take if I could. Marley & Sisal look like they'll be staying with daughter. They weighed over 30 pounds at 4 months.

Photos taken 8/21. Marley - formerly a brown puff ball is now thin & lanky, loves to run and play, and can stand on her hind legs straighter than any dog I've ever seen. I think she'd be great at agility trials.

Sweet Merida, always the most laid back, and rambunctious Sisal who needs a young and very active family to keep him out of mischief.

** I know there are several errors in the above, left out words, etc. I'm too tired to edit properly. If you'll email or post a comment pointing those out, I'll correct and appreciate the assistance.

Monday, April 21, 2008

More Storms & BIG puppies

Puppies first - 13 days old. Eyes open. Definitely piglets!

You'd think that the previously described storm would have cleared and stabilized the atmosphere. Nope. Another line of severe storms formed west of Abilene late on the 9th, and we watched them move steadily eastward for next 3+ hours into the Metroplex area, along with high winds, large hail, and various tornado warnings, including a long-lasting tornado vortex signature (TVS) in a cell that kept heading right at Arlington. Moving as fast as 60 mph, the line hit the western edge of the Metroplex about 3 a.m. The OEM has a new policy that delays activation of the EOC (don't you love all the acronyms?) for severe weather until the National Weather Service (NWS) has requested that RACES be activated. Then and only then will a staff member make the determination whether to formally open the EOC (Emergency Operations Center). Previoulsy, RACES radio volunteers had access to the Radio Room and just went to work without direct supervision, not that we have it now, but then some fo them could privately access the EOC and get started before a staff member arrived. New policy requires a staff member to physically open the EOC and be on duty throughout event. This particular occasion RACES wasn't activated until the storms almost to the western Tarrant County line. Moving up to 60 mph, that only gave Arlington a 10 to 15 minute window to activate. Then there was a slight delay in getting that done. I left within 90 seconds of receiving confirmation activation had been authorized, by which time the winds were hitting maybe 35 or 40 and rains were already approaching torrential. Thankfully, I was the only idiot out on the streets at 3:40 a.m. because with lights out along the 2-3/4 mile route I take, I first hit a stretch where water covered the street, hydroplaning for 100 feet or so (thankfully staying in my lane), then didn't realize I was at the major intersection where I needed to turn until I was in the middle of the pitch black intersection all but blinded by torrential rain, suddenly trying to figure out where the heck I was, and knowing it would have been far smarter for me to have stayed at home. Another 45 seconds, and I was safely at my destination. I had my radio with me and was monitoring RACES, but there wasn't a single spotter deployed in Arlington. I waited 10minutes for Dave to get there, then we both waited another 15 for a staff member to make it in, by which time the most serious portion of the storm had long since moved into Dallas County. We lucked out. The mid-cities area of Hurst/Euless/Bedford got hammered. That same cell continued northeast into Dallas and Collin County, dropping a small brief twister and doing major wind damage throughout those counties. Just before I left home, I called waking daughter and told her to get to a safe place immediately! Part of an apt complex roof was blown off only 2 or 3 blocks from her home, and among other wide-spread damage in Dallas & Collin Counties, significant major power line and some structural damage was done within 2 to 6 blocks of my sister's home in northwest Dallas County.


The whole bit about waiting for staff to get back to the OEM after regular business hours before the EOC can be activated in severe weather events just will not work. They know that. What they can do about it is another issue for them to resolve internally and with upper city management. I got 1.3 inches of rain and no other damage this time. The hail on the 8th, however battered all the unprotected cars and roofs, including mine. Not sure if I'll make a claim on my older model car and pocket the $$, or what. As for roof, it's not leaking and in any event, I'm waiting until AFTER the spring storms have abated to even think about it.

April 15th, I went to my first RACES Meet & Greet in Fort Worth and had my picture taken for my ID, assuming my application is okay. After rushing it to the PO on the 31st, the coordinator didn't even pick it up from the post office until the 19th.

Storm April 17th. We knew this huge storm was headed our way as well. In fact, my daughter had a scheduled flight from Minneapolis at 5:15, and I advised her at 4:30 there might be a ground hold because of approaching bad weather that was going to hit about the time she was supposed to land. Unfortunately, her flight left on time. In the meantime, since the storms were approaching during business hours, this time the OEM stayed open. I had a CERT meeting at 6:30 and wondered if they were going to cancel it. Instead I showed up with HT (Handy-Talkie - my hand held radio) in hand and kept monitoring, knowing that RACES was sooner or later going to be activated. As it happened, the scheduled CERT program that evening was to introduce CERT members to severe weather events, radar images and how the EOC reacts. The room was full at the 6:30 start time, about the time the storms hit Parker County, just west of Tarrant County, with TVS, lowering wall clouds, rotating scud, ground-covering golf ball and baseball sized hail, high winds, etc. RACES activated about 7 and Ben, who was giving the CERT program, told me to go on to the EOC. I had to stop by home to get my ID. This time everyone was in place. What delayed Dave and I was that the lap top that I'd been given to use was missing and Dave had to take off 5 precious minutes to move the Go Kit (the portable radio set up) into another cubicle for my use. At first I tried to play catch up on missed radio calls in the Entry Log, but the weather got so bad and so many spotters were out that I gave that up and just summarized and typed in reports in real time. RACES activation means that only those with RACES membership and authorization can use the radios for so long as the RACES NET is activated = FCC rule. The RACES storm spotter is required to give the call sign, wait for the Coordinator to acknowledge their sign and give them permission to report. The report consists of location, then the conditions or even being reported. Example: This is ABC5QR (not a real call sign), Go ahead ABC5QR. I'm at 57L and am watching a wall cloud developing 5 miles to my SE, with rotating scud. Quarter-sized hail." After which the RACES Coordinator generally quickly summarizes an already very brief report. ABC5QR hopefully repeats his call sign (the vast majority of spotters are men). In this case the RACES coordinator will ask for immediate confirmation from anyone else who has a line of sight to confirm a developing wall cloud. At the height of the storm the reports were coming in NON-STOP, the next report starting immediately as the previous one ended. It became a task similar to straight dictation, but with a lot of keystrokes from column to column, and it was quite a challenge to keep up with them all. I got most, location and reported event taking precedent over some of the call signs. Also, from time to time it was necessary to get up and make a verbal report to OEM management. Initially they didn't have my Event Log on screen in the actual Command Center, and figuring out which extension someone would be at at any given moment was more difficult than just getting up and walking 25 feet to tell someone in person. When the Radio Room is completed, this won't be an issue. We'll be just off the main control room and can holler out the door if it comes to that.

Video of April 17 Hail Storms: http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-5176892715338669042&q=april+17+storms+texas&ei=vsIISP-7NIvqrQK13a2QAQ&hl=en

No comment on the idiots driving around in the middle of it. Real storm chasers make every attempt to AVOID a hail core, if for no other reason than that it frequently preceeds the tornado now unseen behind it.
Arlington lucked out again. The TVS which was headed right down I-30 at us dissipated. Most cities sounded sirens this time because of observed brief tornadoes but primarily due to the large and very dangerous hail. I'm not aware of any large hail hitting Arlington this time. The winds stayed relatively calm and under 65, and the baseball sized hail hit elsewhere, though there were several minutes when it appeared to be headed right at southern Arlington. I got another 1.2 inches of rain. A secondary small storm was moving through as I was leaving the EOC. It was about 9:30 and after almost 3 hours of non-stop adrenalin rush, I really tired. As her 7:45 landing time approached I kept wondering where my daughter was. In fact, that's the last comment I made as I left the EOC. Her cell phone was off, so I knew they had taken off. I'd tried to reach her after the plane should have landed. I called and left a message for her to stay at the airport until the storms passed, and call me when she got in. Well, she did try but my cell phone didn't receive the calls. It so happened that the moment I sat in the car, my cell rang. She was in San Antonio where her flight had finally been diverted after a 2-1/2 hour flight had turned into almost 5 as the plane made repeated attempts to cut in through the storm cells to land at DFW. It was so turbulent, they eventually gave up. Then they had to wait for a new crew, still sitting in the plane in SA. The normally 50 minute flight back to Dallas was just as circuitous, having to fly west out of San Antonio actually into Mexican air space, before they could head back north behind a solid line of storms - which by the stretched from Mexico into and across the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, bisecting the country in half. Her flight, which originally left at 5:15 finally landed at 12:59 am. In the meantime, she asked me to go check on her dog and puppies, meaning an additional 40 minutes on the road, 1/2 of it in heavy rain.

Puppies in box unphased and just fine. Mama Dog under bed hiding. EMVolunteer hungry and exhausted. Daughter finally got home just before 2am.

Severe Weather 3 - EOC 1.

In the meantime, my dear sweet Andy, my bichon mix who has been being treated for lymphoma since last June, is nearing the end. Just not a fair juxtaposition with new puppies in the family as well. Or perhaps, very appropriate - Circle of Life and that sort of thing. Just don't expect me to deal rationally nor prosaically with the circumstance of such.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Midnight Hail Storm

It's right at 11pm. A cold front moved through the area a bit earlier producing various storms along it's SW to NW front. I'm sitting here monitoring the NWS seeking hail reports from the Grapevine area and listening to two or three radio operators reporting from their home locations. A couple more cells have moved into southern Tarrant County and one is headed more or less in my direction. Nothing severe at this point. Tomorrow is forecast for moderate risk of severe storms. NWS is just issuing a severe thurnderstorm warning for that storm moving in my direction, small hail and winds to 60mph. Guess I'm going to be up a while. The NWS notifies radio operators either the same time or a few seconds before the information is sent to radio and television broadcasters around the area. So far my NBC5I warning link hasn't popped up with that severe alert. If this were to develop very quicky and get pretty bad I'd receive a call from the EOC advising me to activate - in other words get my tail down there ASAP.

I went to meet with Gene and Greg this evening at the EOC to discuss the status of the Event Log, and to familiarize Greg with the data entry process. The entry itself is pretty straight forward, but it's the know what needs to be entered and what can be left out that's important, and entering all those still unfamiliar call signs that slows me down on occasion. When the Radio Room is completed, I'll be seated between 2 radio operators typing in info pretty much real time. When I first arrived, early for a change, I walked into a room with several police officers - which I had not anticipated. They were using the EOC as Operations command to oversee Opening Day for the Texas Rangers. At the time they were monitoring traffic leaving the stadium. A bit later it was checking to make sure all the tailgaters had left the premises, and handling reports of a fight and drunks in one of the parking lots. They deployed what I'd call a modern version of a paddy wagon in case of mass arrests (something th ... Ha, the computer alert just sounded - that took about 5 minutes to come up.) The police were trying to avoid mass arrests, but just in case ... Between 6 Flags security, Stadium security and several squad cars with flashing lights the remaining partiers moved home without incident, more or less.

I'm hearing a increasing rumble of the approacing storm and will go watch to see if I get any hail. I hear hail on the roof! -------- Well, that was a bit of a wild ride starting with torential rains with pea-sized hail coming down in sheets, followed by 1-1/4" hail just to wrap up the show. The flowers I just planted over the weeked are shredded.

All the hail in the bowl is a couple of handfuls I scooped up in a 6" square area. Note that the chunk beneath the quarter is half-again as big as it is.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Severe Weather April 3-4 - How about Puppies Instead - Naw, Let's Do Both

I'd had a call from both Dave and Ben on the 3rd to meet at the EOC to get back up to speed on our Event Log entry program, and find a way to work around current lack of formal radio room. I had a choice of separate cubicle or to share one with Dave, which I opted for. Easier to turn sideways and say "Huh?" rather than call over the cubicle. Mainly the purpose was for me to get used to new set up, new computer, new keyboard, etc. Once I got situated in the corner worked fine, though in a crunch Dave and I couldn't get out at the same time. The most difficulty I have is trying to hear call signs that are rattled off and the speaker already giving a report before my brain has registered call sign enough to get it down. Dave had already set up a separate Go Kit on the desk top with both 200 and 400 band receivers, one set to the Arlington Repeater and the other to the Tarrant County repeater AND my own headset. We spent the rest of the aftenoon with him calling out call signs for me to practice listening to and typing, then me preparing a table to post on the wall of the call signs of local members so I would know who is who, and thus make it easier for me to hear and remember who was reporting. As we were doing that, another OEM employee was in his cubicle directly next to us participating in this area's afternoon's Emergency Manager's Weather Briefing via conference call with the Storm Prediction Center in KC and the NWS in Fort Worth. Seems there was some disagreement as to what we could expect - ranging from large hail, 60 mph winds to same with heavy rainfall and the possibility of tornadoes. The winds had been gusting 20 to 30 all day, with heavy overcast, but at 10pm, the skies were mostly clear.

In the interim my daughter's belated vacation souvenirs began the process of arriving. Expecting to have to be back at the EOC around midnight, I went over at 8 to find her on the phone with emergency vet, coming home to grab a nap at 10. The skies were mostly clear and there was nothing on the radar of any signifcance. She called at 1:43 to annouce 4 puppies, at 1:45 my alarm went off, afther which I spent the rest of the night monitoring severe storms that were up in Denton County, a new cells forming and training east across the Texas Motor Speedway. Thankfully the hail shafts started dumping large hail just east of that venue, a reprieve for all the NASCAR fans. Denton County suffered heavy damage. It didn't even rain at my house. Puppies are fine.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Severe Weather Forecast for April 3rd

Because of my involvement with the Arlington EOC, I and other volunteers receive weather-related information directly from the OEM to prepare us for significant weather-related events. Normally we get these early in the morning. That I received the following as a "preliminary briefing" before 5:00 p.m. on the day before indicates considerable concern.
From the Arlington Office of Emergency Management

Scattered showers and thunderstorms are possible tonight. Another active severe weather day also seems to be shaping up for Thursday:
SYNOPSIS - The Storm Prediction Center has placed areas along and north of the I-20 corridor in a moderate risk for severe thunderstorms on Thursday. A slight risk covers our southern counties. Large hail, damaging downbursts, and a few tornadoes are possible, especially in the moderate risk area, Thursday afternoon and evening. Storms will move and spread southeast Thursday night, with the hail and downburst threat continuing.
DISCUSSION - At mid-afternoon Wednesday, a warm front was moving northward into the Temple area. Two vigorous upper level storm systems were to our west...one over the northern Rockies, and one off of the California coast.As we move through Thursday, the warm front will continue through north Texas and into Oklahoma. Warm and moist air will flow north into the area. The upper-level systems will approach the area, with mid and upper level winds increasing. A surface dryline will become established over west Texas, and will move east during the day. A cold front will move southward through Oklahoma as well.Scattered thunderstorms are expected to develop along and ahead of the dryline Thursday afternoon. The atmosphere will be quite unstable, and very strong updrafts will be possible. Deep-layer vertical wind shear will be favorable for organizing the storms, with mid-level rotation. Large hail (perhaps larger than golf balls) and damaging downbursts will be possible from the strongest storms. Storms which can remain isolated, and not merge into clusters or lines, may also find a favorable environment for low-level rotation as well.By Thursday night, the southward-moving cold front should overtake the dryline and move into north Texas. Storms should evolve into a squall line along the front and move south-southeast through the area. The low-level rotation potential should decrease, but the threat for hail and downbursts will continue. Storms should exit our counties late Thursday night or early Friday morning.
BOTTOM LINE - The forecast environment looks fairly similar to what we saw Monday, but the upper-level support should be stronger with this event. Monitor the movement of the dryline and cold front during the day Thursday. Watch for thunderstorm development Thursday afternoon along the front and dryline. Once again, storms may be fairly fast-movers, so teamwork among the spotter groups will be important. Spotter reports of visual storm structure were extremely helpful Monday, and that will be the case Thursday as well. Ground-truth reports will of course be beneficial as well. Monitor the following National Weather Service websites:

(base info)

(Storm Prediction Center)

(Emergency Managers briefing page)

for the latest information.

First Wednesday Siren Test Cancelled - Tests Explained

Because of severe weather Monday, and due to heavy overcast today, the Office of Emergency Management cancelled today's siren test, in part due to the ever-present concern some people might fear it was a real weather emergency then become complacent the next time a real one happens, and perhaps frighten the bejeebies out of a few as well.

The city of Arlington holds its siren tests on the First Wednesday of each month. Members of the all volunteer Emergency Management Support Team (EMST) and other radio volunteers proceed to a siren location as directed by the event leader at the Emergency Operations Center (EOC). The actual flipping of the switch is done by city personnel. At each location all electrical equipment and battery boxes, both on the pole and on the ground, are visually inspected for signs of tampering or other problems, then the volunteer observes and listens to the siren to make sure it is operating properly: 1) making at least 2 full rotations; 2) is loud; 3) is secure and 4) report any other issues that may be of concern. For the first test the siren is activated using the electrical system. Because all sirens do not sound at the same time, there is about a 5-minute wait as all sirens finish sounding. Then the siren is tested a second time using the battery back up. Each volunteer then reports the results via amateur radio to the person in charge of the event as his or her radio call sign is called. On occasion a volunteer might not have a radio available, and the information is phoned in to the EOC instead. The goal is to visually inspect every siren every 3 months. Unfortunately, there are often only a handful of volunteers so not all prioritized sirens (Arlington has 48 sirens) are observed, and cancelling the test because of inclement weather postpones testing.

NOTE: WARNING SIRENS ARE INTENDED TO ALERT THOSE OUTDOORS TO SEEK IMMEDIATE SHELTER. They are not designed nor intended to be heard inside every dwelling or business as a primary alert system. If you can hear a siren with windows closed, A/C, Radio or TV on, the dishwasher running, etc. count yourself fortunate, but don't depend on the siren system as your sole means being alerted to a local emergency. For weather events, purchase a Weather Radio and keep the battery back-up current. For other emergency events, you'll have to depend on Television or Radio, or other mode of communication. That the siren system is only meant to be heard OUTSIDE remains a matter of contention between OEM's and residents who believe the system should be able to warn EVERY one EVERY time. I don't necessarily disagree with this sentiment, but that is not their function. Nor is it likely a siren could be created to be heard by someone running a blow dryer in the bathroom a mile or more away without deafening everyone in between. Another bone of contention between residents and the OEM is with regard to the area-wide sounding of sirens when only a few neighborhoods may be potentially affected. Thus for a tornado cutting across a far corner of the city, those residents miles out of danger get the same siren warning resulting in the inevitable complaints from those not directly affected. There are in fact computer programs and siren systems that are able to target specific areas, but upgrading to the newer systems is expensive. Reverse 911 is a concept whose time and technology is here, making it possible for organizations, businesses, local city and county governments to saturate specified geographical areas with phone alert messages. Unfortunately, the larger the community, the more expensive the install.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

March 31st Storms & RACES Activation

Though thunderstorms, possibly severe, were forecast they were predicted to move into the area in late afternoon. Instead, by 2:00pm storms were developing SW of Fort Worth and a tornado watch was issued about 2:30pm. I have NBC 5 Online's (free download from http://www.nbc5i.com/weather ) weather alert program on my computer. When a Severe Weather alert is issued by the NWS, it beeps and shows the area warnings, among other things. I noted that Tarrant County had been placed under a Tornado watch. I then went to http://www.weatherunderground.com to check local and nexrad radar. It already showed strong storms along with a Tornado Vortex Signature in Johnson County, SW of Tarrant County. I turned on my ham radio just in time to hear the RACES activation alert at 2:30. I called Ben Patterson at the EOC to see if it was being activated and got ready to go. The EOC has been undergoing expansion and renovations for most of the past year and the Radio Room at the EOC Radio Room has not been accessible and thus not operable since last June. Fortunate that we had a bunch of early springs storms and it quieted down after that. and has not been open during recent events - at least those occurring after office hours. About 10 minutes later he called back and I went in. I live close so it's only a 5 or 6 minute trip.. The new EOC is a sight & site to behold, but the new updated Radio Room ... well according to various sources they forgot to order the necessary cable to wire, or they forgot they had to put it out for bids, or it was left until everything else was in place, which it certainly appears to be, Whatever is going on appears to be a sore point for everyone involved. I'm staying out of it. So instead of the new Radio Room that I expected to find, instead Dave and I were given cubicles 20 feet outside the EOC, Dave on a ToGo kit with the antenna leaning against the window overlooking a court yard, and me a couple of cubicles away trying to get the online Event Log to load, then get my password to work, then try to remember from last July or August how it works. Dave was using a headset to monitor the RACES reports. I only had my handheld and was pretty much getting only static. Even when he unplugged his headset, I still couldn't hear well enough 2 cubicles away to do my job, and I don't think anyone was even watching to begin with. Last year it was projected onto a screen for everyone in the Command Room to view. I didn't see it projected anywhere at all this time. This was a serious event, at least for locations SW of us, when a wall cloud dropped around 1515 from the rain-free base and quickly spawned a small tornado, thankfully lasting only briefly and doing little damage in the community of Godley. A couple of RACES members had been reporting critical info and News choppers from at least 2 local stations were broadcasting live from a safe distance. The new large screens in the EOC includes broadcasts from all 4 major local channels, as well as radar and other weather information. With everyone watching TV news, and Dave calling into the other room every so often with critical information, I felt totally extraneous and wonder if they are even going to continue the Event Log process. The storm itself moved rapidly west to east along the Tarrant/Johnson County line, across Burleson & Mansfield, and rapidly losing strength and size. Another cell along a line stretching from south of Burleson up into Denton County. The northern cell moved across Denton and Collin County, also producing a rotating wall cloud and dropping some nickle-size hail, but also quickly died. Weather reports later in the evening suggested they out ran the dry line.

The DFW area has a fascinating micro climate which causes the majority of storms (including those with potential ice and snow) coming in from the SW to NW to diverge and cross the area a few miles north or south of the main I-30 corridor, or to quickly fall apart at the western Tarrant County line. Not always, but often enough that it's pretty typical. On the other hand, a storm that does punch through and travel down I-30 is usually going to be a bad one.

I was out walking my dog at 6:30 this morning when the front blew in with gusts up to maybe 25, and temps that dropped noticeably in just that 10 minutes with temps predicted to stay in the mid-60's today and tomorrow, and a chance of thunderstorms Wednesday and Thursday, when it's supposed to get back up into the 80's. It's a Texas spring and anything can happen.

I was going to mail my app to Tarrant County RACES yesterday, but got out of the EOC too late to check the weight before dropping in to the mail box. Doing so today.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

March 29th - SKYWARN Training Today

Because spring weather is already upon us, and because of events beyond my control last fall, this past week I just got around to checking back with Tarrant County RACES to verify the FEMA Incident Command Courses I needed to be certified. I've wanted to do this for a long time, but as this time of year is the time when most RACES events occur, I put it off. Consequently, this week I have completed both the IS-100 Incident Command and IS-700 NIMS courses. These are available online at no cost, and include a straight-forward posttest that one can d/l and review prior to taking it. A SKYWARN certificate is another matter. I wasn't in town Feb. 3rd when the 8-hour Tarrant County class took place. Instead I went to the TESSA (Texas Severe Storm Association) conference in Colleyville earlier this month. I have a certificate from SKYWARN from 2007 but I can't locate the thing. I'm not sure my TESSA certificate will be sufficient, and because they've changed some of the SKYWARN materials this year, today I'm off to Mansfield for the shortened 3-hour version - first I need to get a nap, having been up all night. Monday I'll mail off the materials and hopefully be quickly approved for certification. EMST & CERT each meet for monthly training sessions. This month EMST met on the 13th at the Channel 11 Fox affiliate station a tour and to meet with weather caster, Christine Kohanek. CERT met the 27th for training on discuss Incident Command structure (just AFTER had completed that FEMA course), and to discuss the upcoming State-Wide disaster drill on April 29th. More on that later. And I need to meet with a couple of people at and about the newly redesigned EOC and my on-going responsibilities. I also need to get a magmount antenna for the car for my radio. I live at the low end of the street in a hilly area, and I'm tired of having to go outside to transmit. Way too dangerous when CTG (cloud to ground) lightening is crashing all around.

The Rest of the Story

My Adventures in Emergency Management herald back to the early 50’s with "The Wizard of Oz" and legendary local TV weatherman, Harold Taft. Dorothy's tornado absolutely terrified me, and the rest of my childhood and teen years I cowered in the bathroom everytime the clouds turned dark and menacing. My parents watched Harold every night for his hand-drawn weather maps (and me the Sunday night Ready Kilowatt cartoon). But despite Ready, Harold's first-in-the-Southwest television weathercasts sank in. I've had an active interest in weather ever since, even from the bathroom. In 1978 I had just entered grad school at Baylor. It was a particularly a wild and wicked spring in Waco. Coincidentally on May 9th, the 25th anniversary of Waco's 1953 F5, I was standing on our mutual student housing balcony chatting with a neighbor from Cairo (Egypt), who asked "What's the big deal?" After my overly long but instructive exposition on tornado watches v warnings, during which green clouds begin to sink and swirl and the wind started whipping around, he sensibly asked "What does a tornado look like?" With my other ear I'd been listening to the radio weather report, glanced up as hail began to fall, noticed the hard to miss the funnel-shaped something rotating from the bottom of clouds passing not nearly far enough away (only 3 blocks), pointed at it and, instantly absorbing the irony, said "Ah ... actually, like that. Inside - NOW!" The funnel had formed over Robinson 4 or 5 minutes earlier and passed directly across the Baylor campus, briefly touching at the corner of Speight & 5th BEFORE it entered the campus proper, breaking a window at the PO and bending a couple of signs. Thankfully, it pulled right back up missing the business building and law school just across the street (at the time). A few weeks earlier I had introduced my 6-year-old daughter to “The Wizard of Oz” via TV. Watching the tornado scene, perhaps for the first time since I was 5, and I KNEW EXACTLY the source of all my fears. The realization and effect was instantaneous. No more cowering for me! I wanted to meet my nemesis head on! Just not right at my front door. Fast forward 15 years. I met a guy who was part of the Amarillo ABC affiliate storm chasing team. I flew up to go on an official station storm chase with him, using their new van and new somesort of direct uplink - through cell phone, I think. Unfortunately, it was a weekend with a strong cap and not a cloud anywhere within 150 miles. Instead we unloaded the van and watched the weatherman prepare his evening forecast, complete with TWX NWS reports, and barely out of diapers mid-90's computer weather programs. I still found that facinating. Fast forward another 4 or 5. I heard about SKYWARN, went to see what it was about, and learned about RACES. Ham radio?? Uhhh … a couple more 8 hour SKYWARN classes, an all-day TESSA conference, and I finally decided to visit the local radio club. As I walked in the door a man was seeking volunteers for our local EOC. I ended up the only person working in the radio room unable to talk on the radio, but still playing a pivotal role. After an iffy start several months before finally gaining my license, which involved a bruised ribs, I finally took Technician class training last May and at last earned my Tech license in May, 2007 - KE5OOY (just something about that ooooo-eee wasn't gonna work for me, and the fact I kept saying KEY005), consequently a week or so later I applied to have it changed to W5LMC. I figured I could keep up with my initials. Gene loaned me a handheld, subsequently the OEM created the EMST about the same time, and organized the second CERT training class late last summer. I just completed FEMA's IS-100 (Incident Command) and IS-700 (NIMMS), and can now join RACES. I already monitor most severe weather events, even when not reporting to the EOC, and I still want to go storm chasing. But at least now I can report when the RACES Net is activated. Blame it on The Wizard - and a highly refined sense of procrastination.

Abbreviation Key

AARC - Arlington Amateur Radio Club
- Amateur Radio Emergency Service
- Community Emergency Response Team
EMST - Emergency Management Support Team
- Emergency Operations Center - part of the OEM
FEMA - Federal Emergency Management Agency
- National Weather Service
NWS FWD - National Weather Service - Fort Worth/Dallas
OEM - Office of Emergency Management
- Public Service Event - ARES Net
RACES - Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Services
- TExas Severe Storm Associaton