A story from inside a Hurricane

The following is a story related by hams who went through the hurricanes

Amateur Radio Supporting Hurricane Irma and Maria Recovery in US Virgin Islands

The St. Croix Amateur Radio Club have been supporting the Hurricane Irma response at the Virgin Islands Territorial Emergency Management Agency (VITEMA), utilizing 60-meter band channel 2 (5.346.5 MHz USB) to coordinate emergency communications. The club’s NP2VI is the net control station at the St. Croix Emergency Operations Center (EOC). Participants include the Virgin Islands National Guard Joint Force Headquarters, National Guard Task Forces, and VITEMA EOCs on St. Croix and St. Thomas. Three Puerto Rico Army MARS members also participated. FEMA posted personnel on two Navy vessels — the USS Kearsarge and USS Iwo Jima, and they worked directly with USVI amateurs via 60-meter interoperability channels.

In the photo below, USVI SM Fred Kleber, K9VV (L), with Jarrett Devine of FEMA. [Courtesy of Fred Kleber, K9VV]

The impact of Hurricane Irma on the USVI prompted Amateur Radio operators on St. Thomas, St. Croix, and St. John to spring into action. USVI Section Manager Fred Kleber, K9VV, has been involved in the relief effort. “Our local communications team is doing what we are trained to do,” he said. Our NIMS (National Incident Management System) training has paid off in spades. This is the best type of ‘contest’ we could be involved in. The multipliers are saved lives, relief rendered, and loved ones connected.”

Ham radio volunteers were instrumental in passing critical safety-of-life communications in the days immediately following Hurricane Irma, accessing a 2-meter repeater from the VITEMA EOC. Operators quickly disseminated important relief information (curfew hours, points of distribution, weather bulletins, seaport status) and served as the releay between the EOCs and emergency support functions, and St. John Rescue and St. Croix using 2 meters.

Operators also have provided assistance in coordinating private and military rotary wing landing for supplies and medical evacuations at the St. John Medical Center.

This is all accurate pre-Maria. It was a whole different story when she came to St. Croix. We have used every trick in our comms bag of tricks to make stuff work. Let’s just say we have made a lot of new friends in the ranks of our Territorial and Federal partners.

This is in addition to dealing with all of the devastation at our homes. The pictures you see in social media and on TV don’t do it justice.

All yagis destroyed and tower are compromised. They’re still standing, but one has a 2″ gap in one of the legs about 3′ off the ground. The other just has a compressed leg. Going to be a while until I can rebuild.

Then the generator that worked FB during Irma decided to go TU. Got it running and some of the outlets work but not all of them. I think it might be low voltage on one of the legs. Took a shower at a neighbor’s and it was awesome.

Life has it’s challenges, but thankfully AT&T cellular has stayed up the whole time. What a godsend…

We had 4 skylights and a sliding glass door blow out. (The door was even behind hurricane shutters!!) All of my yagis are toast. One tower has a 2 inch gap in one of the legs, The other has a compressed leg. We had gust down the hill of 193 MPH, so at 300 feet AMSL wth clear southern exposure, we must have had in excess of 200 MPH gusts. Scary.

Good thing is we saved a LOT of lives.

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