It was August 28, 2005 that Hurricane Katrina paid her visit to the city of New Orleans and left such a mess that the city still has not fully recovered. Then on August 28, 2012, exactly 7 years later, Hurricane Isaac came calling on the state of Louisiana. Isaac was smaller and not as strong as Katrina. Isaac’s eye
was a little west of New Orleans but he carried a lot of water which he dumped on the city, surrounding area, and even in the states of Mississippi, Texas, and Alabama leaving floods and devastation in the wake.
Power outages continued to be reported as Isaac swept up the center of the Southern United States towards Missouri. Trees and power poles were knocked over while levies were at the point of breaking because there was more water between them then they were designed to carry.
To protect people and save lives communications was needed but cell service
in many areas and even landline service were wiped out.
I was stationed as a Radioman at the Coast Guard Radio Station New Orleans, NMG, when Hurricane Betsy decided to visit New Orleans. We were busy sending and receiving traffic as fast as we could. There was an unbelievable stack of Operational Immediate (O) messages waiting to be sent, precedence O traffic was just one notch below Z (Flash) which means an attack has been made or is about to be made. Some of those O messages were over eight hours old even though an O message was to be delivered to intended recipient within 15 minutes of origin. So I have some idea of what it was like.
Someone has to fill the communications gap and that is where ham radio
operators proved once again that ham radio is a vital part of our communities and Nation’s communication system. It is interesting how people complain about us until the chips are down and then we help bail them out.
We have some new ammunition in our communication arsenal that we didn’t have in 1965. These include repeaters and VoIP nodes. The VoIP Hurricane Net was running on the *WX_TALK* EchoLink conference node 7203/IRLP 9219 for over two days straight from Tuesday, August 28, through Wednesday, August 29, as Hurricane Isaac continued to pound the US Northern Gulf Coast.
Ocean Springs EOC (Emergency Operation Center) asked William Musa K5YC to pass an emergency message to authorities in Louisiana stating that two adults and one child were trapped in the attic of a house while trying to escape the
flood waters. William sent the message through the Delta Emergency Net. Later that day word was received that not only those three were rescued as result of that message but 15 others were moved to safety.
That is just one of many similar events that happened during and after the storm. Many of those who were saved never knew that ham radio had any part in their rescue. Most of the time our efforts go unnoticed by the community but those agencies we are helping know who we are and that is all that is needed.
WX4NHC, the Amateur Radio Station at the National Hurricane Center in Miami, Florida, along with the Hurricane Watch Net and the VoIP Hurricane Net continued to operate non stop all the while Isaac did his deed.
So to those who helped in yet another disaster I can say, “thank you for a job well done.”
(PS note: WX is not a normal US amateur radio prefix but there is significance to those two letters as all CW operators know. WX is CW shorthand for weather. WX4NHC is a very appropriate call for the National Hurricane Center.)