Amateur Radio volunteers this week responded to help, after flooding of historic proportions struck parts of Louisiana and Mississippi over the weekend in the wake of torrential rainfall. States of emergency were declared in both states, the federal government has declared Louisiana a major disaster area, and the Louisiana Emergency Operations Center was at full activation. FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate, KK4INZ, visited the stricken region on August 16. Louisiana Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES) activated, and Section Emergency Coordinator Adam Tamplain, KD5LEH, put out a call for volunteers to support communication at Red Cross shelters in the hard-hit Livingston Parish and Baton Rouge area. On August 16, the Red Cross was still requesting shelter operators. Although some residents were being allowed to return home at mid-week, about 4000 people remain in shelters.
“While we have had an increase in response from the Southeastern area, it’s still not quite enough,” Tamplain said on Tuesday. “Alabama ARES is attempting to put together a team for us. We have seen support from Southwest Mississippi as well. We had Operators at Red Cross New Orleans, Lafayette, and Baton Rouge today.” Tamplain said a dozen or so operators were staffing eight shelters; nearly 30 remained open at mid-week. He asked additional volunteers to check in at Red Cross Headquarters in Baton Rouge.
Red Cross Vice President of Disaster Services, Operations, and Logistics Brad Kieserman called the Louisiana flooding the worst natural disaster to strike the US since Hurricane Sandy in 2012. Area waterways have reached record flood levels, affecting some 135,000 households and displacing thousands of residents. More than a dozen have died. Roads, including parts of Interstates 10 and 12, had to be closed, and some highways remain impassable. Most conventional telecommunication systems have remained operational.
“Significant river flooding persists this week across portions of southern Louisiana,” FEMA said in its August 18 Daily Operations Briefing. “Major flooding will continue along portions of the Amite, Vermilion, Mermentau, and Calcasieu rivers.” FEMA said flood conditions were “likely to persist into next week.”
Noting the “desperate need” for ham radio volunteers in Louisiana, ARES volunteers in Mississippi have been asked to provide assistance. Prospective Mississippi should not self-deploy to Louisiana, but coordinate through Mississippi Section Manager Malcolm Keown, W5XX.
Primary operating frequencies are 444.950 MHz (107.2 Hz), 146.940 MHz (107.2 Hz), and 146.790 MHz (107.2 Hz). Louisiana ARES HF Frequencies now designated for use are 7.255 MHz and 3.873 MHz LSB. Digital operation is on 3.595 MHz. These should be kept clear of non-emergency traffic.