Friday, May 27, 2011

Wild and Very Wicked Weather

I'll perhaps edit and be a LOT more specific, but suffice it to say that this year has been horrible weather wise with as many RACES activations so far as we've had total in the previous couple of years, and it's not even June. Everyone I know in the emergency community has been stunned and horrified by the death and destruction tornadoes have wrought throughout the country. With large tornadoes in OK, and Joplin still searching for survivors and the missing, we very much dreaded similar here. We knew 3 or 4 days in advance Tuesday, May 24 was going to be bad. How bad, was the question. I was called in to serve as radio operator for the Arlington EOC at 3:45, well in advance of rotating cells moving into northern Tarrant County.  Those had numerous wall clous and dropped a couple of small tornadoes, exploding in size. We breathed a quick breath of relief, only to a second line of even stronger and more dangerous storms start moving in. Those produced more small tornadoes, produced golf ball to baseball size hail, and had brief 70mph wind gusts and sirens sounded all over the country. A small cell popped up in East Fort Worth, exploded in growth and was dropped golf balls as it moved into Arlington. It was also rotating. The EOC was immediately on the phone ordering the authorities at The Ball Park to immediately evacuate fans to shelter. Portions of that cell went over my house and I leaned later than 1/2" hail covered the laws and that something strange caused the tress in the back to blow in opposite directions at the same time. I asked Bill Bunting at NWS if it was a possible small spin up twister, and he replied that it couldn't be ruled out, but it was more likely since many of the storms were rotating and with the hail had rear flank downdrafts, it was a brief RFD. Thankfully no damage here. Officials at DFW Airport evacuated all passengers from planes and from the terminal to safe locations due to an approaching tornado and large hail. I got a text from DD that "lrgr than golf ball hail here." Her car is a mess. Early on I'd called my sister to call my nephew who lives only 1 mile east of a location where a wall cloudo with developing funnel was spotted. They watched it go over. When the Arlington cell started moving in she called my other nephew and told them to take shelter immediately. They were at the Ball Park. That particular cell moved into Dallas County and did drop a tornado in Lancaster / DeSoto. Then a 3rd line of storms popped up in a matter of a couple of radar sweeps and moved through the country and over Arlington as well. Thankfully the second line had drained much of the energy out of the atmosphere and they were the least severe. The last vestige of storms exited Tarrant County just before 11p.m. The Tornado Watch was cancelled and we all went home to destress and eat. I hadn't even had breakfast, but did grab a bag of animal crackers from a vending machine.

Officially there were 8 NWS confirmed tornadoes in the DFW area. The only death was from electrocution when a power pole was blown over on top of someone outside.  Thankfully, I was NOT Net Control for this 8 hours period. Instead at the EOC I was monitoring 2 radio frequencies, watching radar, monitoring NWS Chat, trying to see the TV screen with local news reports way to far above my head, pass critical information to or have staff standing behind me asking questions, AND take copious notes. To say it was really more than 1 person can handle is ... well, it's practically all a blur now.  With so many people affected, it is really petty of me to grouse (but only a teeny-weenie bit and only in hindsight),  however I sat in a windowless office for 8 hours, saw almost nothing of news broadcasts and totally nothing of what was going on outside. Those storms, as bad and dangerous as they were, I would liked to have seen. Star-Telegram article here.

Tuscaloosa, Joplin, El Reno and other communities were all but wiped off the map. We had some bad weather.  My prayers for all of you affected by the storms and flooding this year. What is going on???

Sunday, May 22, 2011

With yet another line of severe storms moving toward DFW, need to switch attention from ongoing process of changing look of blog.. It's been a VERY ACTIVE YEAR!  I'm now an official Back-Up Net Control for Tarrant County RACES and an unofficial member but invited guest of the Leadership Council that meets at the Fort Worth/Tarrant County Joint EOC. Other than still conducting the ham portion of the monthly Arlington OEM outdoor warning siren tests, so far this year they've not requested radio operators to be onsite during severe weather events that impact Arlington and are monitoring the radios themselves.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Hams Provide Communications Support During West Texas Wildfires

"We also sent hams to assist at the Alpine Police Department and the dispatch in Brewster County, as well as at the radio stations. Due to the fire, there was no electricity or phone service, so hams at the police department and dispatch handled traffic. The ham at the radio station received messages from the Emergency Operations Center in Brewster County concerning public safety, highway closures and evacuations to be broadcast over the air.”  Click for full article. I was not involved, but this highlights the necessity and versatility of volunteer amateur radio operators providing communications for governmental agencies during emergencies.

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