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Katrina Operations


Out of state Hams

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Hurricane Katrina Operations
August - September 2005

In St. Tammany Parish, Louisiana, local Amateur radio operators worked 18 hours a day since what has been described as the storm of the century struck our area.   Forsaking their own property and in some cases their heath, these volunteer pitch in.  Not only providing communications for the Red Cross, but supplying the only link to the state capital linking the state EOC with the Parish EOC.  When they are not working as communicators, they hand out food, deliver water and whatever the need. 

In Covington, La. The Communications for the American Red Cross was moved to a Amateurs heavily damaged home when the local office lost power.  With generator and battery power, 5 Hams using makeshift antennas supplied the Red Cross and the Parish EOC with communications.

Jerry - W5NJJ worked to restore his repeater to full operation within hours after the winds subsided and allowing him to work.  He tended the generator that charged batteries. Sleeping 3 or 4 hours at a time so the generator can be fueled and the batteries maintained, this 85 plus year old Ham has given the local operators the ability to help others.  This went on for 2 weeks until his power was restored.

Tony – KD4SSQ help open a Red Cross Shelter the day before Katrina hit Southeast Louisiana.  He and his brother KD5SSR stayed for 7 days and nights providing needed communications. When not acting as the communications link, they pitched in serving meals, assisting security and any other task of them.

Harris - KB5BFK was attempting to remove a generator from his truck when a Oak tree crashed onto his truck.  With a 5 inch gash on his forehead, and no way to reach a hospital for over 2 days, Harris was the net controller for 18 hours a day.   Once we could get him the the hospital, he was checked and released, and within a few hours, he was back on the air.

Noel Jr. - KC5CSN helped to setup antennas once the winds dropped below 50 MPH, them wend on to assist the American Red Cross with their ECU (Emergency Communications Unit) that arrived after the hurricane with no operator. For the next 2 weeks he assisted, and in some cases installed and repaired equipment with little tools and parts to work with.

Larry - KD5LWJ operated as control operator for the EOC (Emergency Operations Center) for Tangipahoa Parish.  He and other local Hams relayed messages between St. Tammany E.O.C. and local Red Cross and the State E.O.C. in Baton Rouge.

James - K5QNT & Bob K5NDT members of the Southeast Louisiana A.R.C. setup H.F. operations between the St. Tammany Parish hospital in Covington, LA and the Heart Hospital and the Hospital in Franklinton, LA. providing a reliable link for the hospitals.  In one case, they assisted in saving the life of a patient in Franklinton by getting a life flight to the hospital.  The patients injuries were beyond what the small hospital could provide.

Mike - W5PY operated at the Slidell hospital for three weeks after the hurricane completely destroyed his home.  Passing medical request to other hospitals, conducting health & welfare, Mike stayed on the job serving others while his home and property was in shambles. He stayed at his post for well over 4 weeks passing all sorts of messages

Mike - KB5OZE took over my job as Communications Chair for the 3 parish area when torn muscles in my leg prevented me from working after almost 3 weeks of swelling and pain.  His efforts resulted in saving and transporting over 5 tons of meat from a storage felicity that lost their freezers.  After I got a freezer truck from Wal-mail, he lead the truck into Slidell and inspected the meat to insure only frozen meat was loaded into the trailer. The froze meat was sent to the 1St. Baptist Church where it was cooked and loaded onto Red Cross ERV's to feed citizens on the devastated region.

K5AH - Edward returned home while the winds were still blowing.  Being on the fringe area of the disaster, Ed began taking Health & Welfare messages and relaying them on H.F. and by phone when possible.  Day after day, Ed stayed on the radio doing a job for free that many would not do for pay.    As a ham I understand we are called amateurs, but their was nothing amateur about the way these operators did their jobs.

Hams located at two hospitals are credited with saving at lease one life when the only means of communications to a small town hospital had collapsed.  

This is not the end of this story, its only the beginning and more will be added as time goes on.  I thank God for the Hams that responded to our call for help.  Amateur operators from Texas, Tennessee, Colorado, Washington State, Western Louisiana and other places responded to our call from help.

Even today, Amateur operators are working along the most severely damaged regions of the Katrina and Rita areas. 

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Karen E. Johansen  – WB5GEO
Communications Officer
St. Tammany Amateur Radio Club
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