Amateur Radio volunteers are responding 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 have been declared in both states, and the federal government has declared Louisiana a major disaster area. Louisiana Section Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES®) has activated and put out a call for volunteers, though Amateurs should not self-deploy to the affected area.
Thousands of residents in the affected areas have been displaced, many to Red Cross shelters, and rescue operations continue for those caught in the catastrophe. At least 6 people have died. Roads, including parts of Interstates 10 and 12, have closed, stranding many motorists. At least one cell network was reported to be down, but most conventional communication modes remain working.
The American Red Cross has requested the activation of Louisiana ARES for assistance with shelters in the Livingston Parish and Baton Rouge areas, Louisiana Section Emergency Coordinator Adam Tamplain, KD5LEH, told ARRL. Approximately 40 shelters need coverage. All available Amateur Radio operators with portable equipment have been asked to meet at the Baton Rouge Red Cross Headquarters (4655 Sherwood Common Boulevard). Volunteers are being told to prepare for several days of operations. Again, willing Amateur volunteers should NOT self-deploy. The primary contact is Steve Irving, WA5FKF, (225-933-4993). Louisiana ARES Assistant SEC John Mark Robertson, K5JMR, is in the radio room at Red Cross Headquarters in Baton Rouge.
Primary operating frequencies at this time 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 3.595MHz. These frequencies should be kept clear of non-emergency traffic. More repeaters may need to be designated, and the frequencies will be posted when they become available.
“Be very cautious on the highways,” Tamplain advised. “Do not attempt to cross flooded roadways. If you can't make it, you can't make it. Your own safety takes priority.”
ARES volunteers in Mississippi now are being asked to provide assistance. Noting the “desperate need” for ham radio volunteers in Louisiana, Mississippi SEC Rez Johnson, K1REZ, put out a call for volunteers to ARRL members in his Section, but he stressed that prospective Mississippi volunteers should not self-deploy to Louisiana. He asked that any Mississippi Amateur Radio operators who are willing to travel to Louisiana to help at Red Cross shelters coordinate through him.
“Most of their own ARES members are not able to help, due to having to take care of their own flooded homes and families,” Johnson explained. “They only have a very few Amateur Radio operators helping them at this time — not nearly enough to meet their need. The majority of shelters still have no one at all handling communications.”
Johnson pointed out that prospective volunteers do not have to be ARES or RACES members, nor need any FEMA certification, but they should not go without coordinating through him. “They are asking for any and all Amateur Radio operators to help them,” he said.
In addition the ARRL South Texas Section has been put on alert to be ready to assist the Louisiana Section. Houston and points east are also experiencing heavy rainfall.
Louisiana Gov John Bel Edwards said over the weekend that more than 20,000 people had been rescued by participating agencies and volunteers. In a Sunday press conference the governor said that as many as 10,000 people are in shelters. The downpours have generated record water levels at some Louisiana rivers.