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ARRL General Bulletin ARLB008 (1999)

ARLB008 Hams Respond As Killer Tornadoes Rake South

QST de W1AW  
ARRL Bulletin 8  ARLB008
From ARRL Headquarters  
Newington CT  January 23, 1999
To all radio amateurs 

ARLB008 Hams Respond As Killer Tornadoes Rake South

Hams in Tennessee and Arkansas responded as unusual tornadoes
threatened, then struck, this week. A call went out January 22 for
additional ham radio volunteers to assist emergency operations in
Tennessee in the storms' wake.

Tornadoes in the Jackson, Tennessee, area January 17 killed eight
people. Another eight died when tornadoes struck in the vicinity of
Little Rock and White County, Arkansas, January 21. The National
Weather Service called it ''an unprecedented outbreak of tornadoes
for January.''

Arkansas Section Manager Roger Gray, N5QS, in Searcy, reports he was
up all night and observed four or five funnel clouds, but he
estimated that at least 30 tornadoes swept through the area. Gray
has been actively managing the ARES operation. ''We have had an
incredible response from the amateur community,'' he said. He
estimated that up to 60 hams were active on VHF and HF nets. ''We
have been running nets almost continuously since 4 o'clock yesterday
afternoon and no end in sight,'' he added.

Amateur Radio was filling the gap as long-distance telephone
circuits have become overloaded. ''That's why we're handling as much
traffic as we are.'' Damage was primarily confined to four areas, and
he expected ham radio involvement to conclude within 24 hours.

''Another wild night in Arkansas,'' said ARRL Vice President Joel
Harrison, W5ZN, in Judsonia, who reported ''lots of damage'' in his
area. ''I have to tell you, in my 41 years of living here, I have
never seen storms like we had last night,'' he said. Harrison said
the first line came through around 5 PM, ''then another, and another,
and another for what seemed like every half hour till about 10:30

''The damage in a 10 mile radius around my home is horrible.''
Harrison said. Arkansas State University in Beebe--where his son,
Mark, attends school--had extensive damage. ''There is considerable
damage in Little Rock, even to the Governor's Mansion,'' he added.

Mark Harrison, KC5YNE, said most of the town of Beebe was damaged or
destroyed, and eight tornadoes hit White County alone. He reports
the family spent an anxious night. ''It was a relief when the storms
finally quit, and everything was fine here,'' he said.

Meanwhile, Delta Division Vice Director Henry Leggette, WD4Q, in
Memphis, Tennessee, reports considerable ham radio activity in the
Jackson area, where tornadoes hit last weekend, as well as in
Clarksville, where twisters struck early on the morning of January
21. Leggette said he planned to visit the Jackson area over the
weekend to assist.

Tennessee SEC Jim Jarvis, WD4JJ, in Bristol, relayed a request for
amateurs with mobile units to assist at the Clarksville/Montgomery
County Emergency Operations Center. Hams willing to volunteer may
contact the EOC directly on the 147.39 MHz repeater, he said. ''The
police department and city hall have been completely demolished, and
the downtown area is a complete wreck.'' Jarvis also reports damage
in Humphreys County, as well as in McEwen, Waverly, and Camden
counties. He estimated that up to three dozen hams active in
providing emergency communication in the Clarksville/Montgomery
County area.

In the aftermath of the earlier storms, Jarvis reports that EC Kenny
Johns, AB4EG, in Jackson was rounding up volunteers to assist the
Red Cross with damage assessment in the seven counties hit last
weekend. Johns said a SKYWARN net was activated last Sunday
afternoon, but the tornadoes were unexpected. After the storms
struck, more than two dozen ARES members handled health-and-welfare
traffic at the EOC for 22 hours.

SKYWARN nets remain on the alert for additional severe weather this
weekend in the Tennessee-Arkansas-Louisiana region.


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