Thursday, May 20, 2010

Once again Arlington dodged the bullet

Despite dire predictions for two or 3 weeks, and Oklahoma getting slammed over and over, and desepite some storms that activated RACES Tuesday I think), all we had was a rain event that stayed south of I-20.  The last couple of days we've been waiting on storms developing along a front, then a dry line, then warm front. First Wed, then Thursday then overnight, then by this morning.

About 11:20 I checked the local radar - nothing. I posted another blog entry at 11:28, got up to go fix myself some lunch. Had taken 2 bites of my sandwich and the phone rang: a taped notification that RACES had been activated due to storms .... It was 11:46. I grumbled it must be a glitch in the new notification system about a previous event, but switched the TV to the radar channel just out of habit:

YIKES - WHERE DID THOSE STORMS COME FROM??? Turned on my radio and confirmed a RACES Net in progress. Made a quick call to Radio Dave to see if the EOC had been activated - it hadn't. Took another bite. Dave called back and said it had and he was heading down. As I was dumping my lunch back in the fridge I heard someone report a rotation not far from parent's house not that far away. I quickly called Dad, put on cleaner clothes, ran a toothbrush across my teeth and a quick gargle, then grabbed radio, ID badge, purse and was out the door by 11:55. It occurred to me later I hadn't even looked in the mirror or brushed my hair.

I radioed to RACES that I was going to a certain location (along my way to the EOC) to stop. From the Women's Club parking lot I had a good view north and west. I saw the formation the earlier report had been made about but saw neither lowering or rotation. Reported there was significant low level sheer but winds were almost calm and no inflow. After 5 or so minutes I went on in to the EOC to help man the radio. This is really only the second time I've actually taken the opportunity to spot" Normally I head straight to the EOC. With an old car, dents wouldn't make any difference but I just don't trust it to work exactly at the precise moment I might to skedaddle away from imminent harm!

It's a llittle concerning sitting in the Emergency Operations Center knowing a storm with another rapidly developing storm with a very strong hook echo is first passing directly over your house then pretty much overhead! The Radio Room has several walls between it and the nearest window, but I when the TV stations started reporting a lowering not 3 or 4 miles SE of our location, I did go to the 2nd floor lunchroom, the one sided with a floor to ceiling bank of windows, to look. Hey, I got to the a small wall cloud!! I reported back to the EM's, all of whom had congregated in the EOC ready to react as necessary, that I could confirm lowering but saw no rotation. The cell moved east into Dallas Co where it the wall cloud continued to organize and the storm dumped significant hail. After 2 hours, all the cells had moved East or SE - where they subsequently dropped small tornadoes just over the county line and continue as I type to move SE with continuing possible tornadic activity. With no additional pop-ups or development to the West or NW, tThe NWS gave permission to close the RACES Net about 1:50 but we hung around until 2, just in case.  I came home to finish the sandwich I'd just started when I got the phone RACES alert phone call. Thankfully, nothing dropped until it moved out of our county!

The problematic issue is that with both Radio Dave & I at the EOC, the total number of spotters in Arlington was only eventually 3 - including a city employee who was in the right spot to watch what was going on. Radio Dave served as Net Controller for RACES and I served as Net Controller on the Arlington repeater to take reports from radio operators who have taken SKYWARN but for some reason have not joined RACES. Works well. I also was doing real time event logging by recording the radio reports as they came in. 

We happen to have a radio club meeting tonight. Don't know if Dave will be there, but I intend to bring up the disturbing lack of "eyes on the ground" when today was exactly the type of situation where we needed more than we had, and certainly had the real potential for a LOT of operators to be available.

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