Thursday, September 19, 2013
Amateur Radio Responds to Colorado Floods
Some of the worst flooding followed the path of the High Park and Waldo Canyon fires. The 2013 Waldo Canyon fire was the worst in the state's history burning more than 18,000 acres near Colorado Springs and destroying more than 300 homes.
Jack Ciaccia, WM0G is the ARRL Colorado Section Manager. He says that as the flood waters began arriving on Thursday, August 12th, ham radio operators were ready:
Ciaccia” “The hams in the local ARES groups reported to the regional and local county emergency operations centers and manned their positions. Plus the state Emergency Operations Center in Centennial Colorado was opened and staffed by senior ARES personnel”
The unprecedented storms dealt a heavy blow to both utilities and communications. News reports say that many cellular telephone towers have either fallen, were washed away or are simply without power. This in turn cut off wireless and broadband communications to several communities. Also destroyed have been powerlines and some landline-based telephone service. This has left ham radio as the mainstay of communications into and out of these areas.
Ciaccia: “The next thing to happen was we started hearing of evacuation centers being opened kind of spontaneously because a large building in a dry area was the only criteria. And as fast as we could we needed to get communications to them because in many of the mountain areas where these evacuation centers were there was no other means of communications”
As the operation progressed, some hams were assigned to monitor the Boulder County ARES Repeater as well as the two Mountain Emergency Radio Network Repeaters located in high altitude communities. The latter turned out to be true life savers. Again, WM0G:
Ciaccia: “We were fortunate to have some hams located in some of the remote areas which is (the result) of another project that we had created in the past year since the fires called the Mountain Emergency Radio Network. This is a small network of repeaters that the ARES hams have trained upward of 60 mountain residents and who have gotten their licenses. We then repurposed a bunch of VHF radios – both handy talkies and mobiles for them to utilize these repeaters.
“And just tonight we were told by the Fire Chief in one of those remote communities that had it not have been for that MERM repeater system that there probably would have been a lot more deaths because people were able to communicate with each other as to what was happening, where the destruction was and how to get out.”
On Monday the 16th the ARES groups received new marching orders. In addition to search assistance, evacuations, shelter communications and logistics another role has been added. That of disaster assessment:
Ciaccia: “Disaster assessment teams from the Red Cross and from the counties will be mobilizing and we have been asked to provide hams, radios and also video cameras to record video of the disaster areas. So we will be taking on that assignment as well.”
According to Ciaccia so far some 200 ham radio volunteers have been deployed in and around the various flood-stricken counties with some providing communication where no other means existed or still exists. News reports say that at the height of the flooding that the towns of Estes Park, Lyons and Jamestown were relying on ham radio as their only contact with the outside world.
HOW TO READ PROPAGATION NUMBERS
The A index [ LOW is GOOD ]
- 1 to 6 is BEST
- 7 to 9 is OK
- 11 or more is BAD
Represents the overall geomagnetic condition of the ionosphere ("Ap" if averaged from the Kp-Index) (an average of the eight 3-hour K-Indices) ('A' referring to amplitude) over a given 24 hour period, ranging (linearly) typically from 1-100 but theoretically up to 400.
A lower A-Index generally suggests better propagation on the 10, 12, 15, 17, & 20 Meter Bands; a low & steady Ap-Index generally suggest good propagation on the 30, 40, 60, 80, & 160 Meter Bands.
SFI index [ HIGH is GOOD ]
- 70 NOT GOOD
- 80 GOOD
- 90 BETTER
- 100+ BEST
The measure of total radio emissions from the sun at 10.7cm (2800 MHz), on a scale of 60 (no sunspots) to 300, generally corresponding to the sunspot level, but being too low in energy to cause ionization, not related to the ionization level of the Ionosphere.
Higher Solar Flux generally suggests better propagation on the 10, 12, 15, 17, & 20 Meter Bands; Solar Flux rarely affects the 30, 40, 60, 80, & 160 Meter Bands.
K index [ LOW is GOOD ]
- 0 or 1 is BEST
- 2 is OK
- 3 or more is BAD
- 5 is VERY VERY BAD
The overall geomagnetic condition of the ionosphere ("Kp" if averaged over the planet) over the past 3 hours, measured by 13 magnetometers between 46 & 63 degrees of latitude, and ranging quasi-logarithmically from 0-9. Designed to detect solar particle radiation by its magnetic effect. A higher K-index generally means worse HF conditions.
A lower K-Index generally suggests better propagation on the 10, 12, 15, 17, & 20 Meter Bands; a low & steady Kp-Index generally suggest good propagation on the 30, 40, 60, 80, & 160 Meter Bands.
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