delara newsDelaware Amateur Radio Association, Delaware OH VOL 37 NUMBER 11
When all else ~did~ fail - and ham radio saved the day
With 150 MPH winds, this record-setting storm barreled across the Florida Panhandle, all the way through Georgia before it lost intensity to a Tropical Storm. Terry Webb, N0TW, was a big part of the amateur radio response. Here is his story:Hurricane Michael – 2018 – Florida Panhandle … by Terry Webb NØTWStan, N8BHL requested that I write this article to relate my experiences during and following Hurricane Michael. For those of you who followed this event, it was one of the most violent hurricanes to ever strike the Florida panhandle. I am a former member of DELARA and moved from OH to FL in 2007. My location during the hurricane was on the eastern side of the storm. At my QTH, maximum wind speed was only 81 mph with very little rain.While still in the Gulf of Mexico the hurricane was 500 miles across. It hit the mainland at 155 mph, just a few mph below being a Cat 5 hurricane. It flattened docks, destroyed boats and homes and in some cases, blew homes and businesses completely off the map. Some counties were 100% off the power grid. Cell services ceased to exist. Fire, Police, and EMS services had no communication. Shots made by drones showed devastation that looked like it had been bombed.The primary FL counties affected by the brunt of the storm included: Bay, Gulf, Calhoun, and Jackson counties. A mobile ham station, WX4TV, happened to be traveling in this area and immediately responded to communication needs. The ARES net quickly formed and became the Northern Florida Emergency Net. For the next week we provided communication into and out of the affected area. The SAR network, a series of interconnected UHF repeaters was activated and communications across all of FL began the task of providing food, water, and other essential goods such as fuel for generators. Power companies all across the south responded to the storm. At one time, there were 6,500 power trucks working in Bay County around Panama City to restore electricity. In the midst of this calamity, a fireman developed a breathing problem and had to be medivaced to a hospital for an operation. This was handled through ham radio and saved this man’s life.Credit should be given to the citizens of FL. They are a hardy group of rednecks who know what to do and how to do it. Doesn’t matter if it was getting water going from a well or bringing water from a nearby pond to flush toilets. They were real McGyvers. They even cooked breakfast one morning using flashlights when the generator was giving a problem.Regarding ham radio, we used a net control in TN who had two receive sites. This gave coverage into FL on an almost continuous basis. My station functioned as the primary net control in FL and it performed at 100% capability even when I was on a generator for 12 hours. My antenna system for 75 meters is a full-wave loop at 110 ft in the air and I could hear even QRP stations using very poor antennas.One of my good ham friends drove down Hwy 71 toward Port St Joe in Gulf County. His description of the damage was that it was nothing but mile after mile of broken power poles and blown down trees. His callsign was W1LBV and he deserves a debt of gratitude for his service as well as WX4TV. If you get a chance, send them an email and thank them for their sacrifice.My local utility around Tallahassee reported over 1,000 power poles snapped. My good friend KG4ITD lost a 100 ft tower when a tree fell on a guy wire.One aspect of this occurrence is that ham radio really shined during this emergency. Law enforcement, medical, and other county officials saw first hand our capability to provide communication during a time when other modes of communication failed. We had a preacher in AL who had his entire congregation to pray for us. Their hymn they sang for us was, “God Will Take Care of You”. And He did!