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"Reprinted with permission from Ham Radio Online magazine, available for free on the
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ARES Pressed Into Service in Nebraska Blizzard of 1997

By Mary Joseph, N0TRK, Midlands ARES Assistant Emergency Coordinator

Contributed by Bill McCollum, KE0XQ,
ARRL Nebraska Section Manager,BillKE0XQ@aol.com
From the Nebraska Section Newsletter

Members of the Midlands Douglas County Amateur Radio Emergency Service, Sarpy County Amateur Radio Emergency Service and Cass County Amateur Radio Emergency Service were called into service to provide reliable backup communications to the Nebraska Army National Guard during their clean-up efforts in the wake of the October 1997 snowstorm.

The Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES) is supplying backup communications to all current cleanup missions in Douglas, Sarpy and Cass Counties and plans support as necessary throughout the week as clean up missions spread into other counties.

During the clean-up effort, The Army National Guard is using ARES support to relay progress reports, equipment requirements, logistics information and health and welfare information of the soldiers in the field. The blending of Army National Guard radios, cellular phones and amateur radio has provided the guard with reliable communications throughout the mission areas.

The city of Ralston also requested ARES support during their volunteer clean-up day on Saturday November 1. Several ham radio operators were placed with the clean-up crews allowing city officials to track the location of the crews and their progress.

ARES is a volunteer radio communications service available to Federal, state, county and local governments, as well as non-profit organizations. In the Omaha Metro Area there are more than 600 amateurs many who are trained in emergency communications procedures and use their own equipment to provide reliable communications during emergency situations. ARES services are provided at no charge to the government agencies and non-profit organizations they serve.

Douglas County EC, Ken Noel, AJ0A reports there was a total of 558 man hours contributed during the clean up. ARES was used on 12 National Guard missions. The following repeaters were utilized: K0USA (146.94), WB0CMC (147.00), WB0QQK (145.115), K0BOY (147.36), K0USA (224.94) WB0CMC (444.950) and the WB0CMC ATV repeater. A special thanks to Charlie Michel, K0QVL for tape recording the operations.

On the October 31st edition of Newsline, Joe Eisenberg (WA0WRI) was interviewed about the storm and what the Lancaster County ARES were doing. And the November 7th edition featured an article submitted by N0TRK. If you or your club has any stories related to the storm, please send them to me and I'll include them in this newsletter. 

Added by Ham Radio Online
The ARRL Newsletter of November 16th added the following about the Nebraska ARES response.

In Nebraska, many residents found themselves without power for up to a week as heavy, wet snow downed trees and power lines in the Cornhusker State. Hams volunteered to help transport stranded emergency workers in the city of Lincoln, Joe Eisenberg, WA0WRI, told Newsline. Hams also helped transport Red Cross workers and equipment to and from shelters.

Midlands ARES Assistant EC Mary Joseph, N0TRK, of Omaha, says ARES pitched to help coordinate the cleanup effort in the week or so following the storm. She reports that ARES worked with the Nebraska National Guard to support communications. Joseph says she and her husband Pat, N0HPP, set up a station in the Guard command center, "right next to their communications people."

At one point, mobile ATV units were able to send back video of the troops in action and scenes of just how bad the situation was--a capability that Joseph says impressed the Guard commanders. Once the Guard commanders and ARES folks felt more comfortable with each other, the military came to call more often on the hams' capability. "Soon, it became obvious that ARES-relayed traffic was more reliable from all areas and faster than cellular phones," Joseph says. "Amateur Radio was mentioned as a positive by one commander, and everyone agreed that ARES made their job easier, getting the message through fast and accurately."

Hams also were assigned to work with Guard troops in vehicles to keep lines of communication open. Overall, 30 ARES members from Midlands ARES, Sarpy County ARES and Cass County ARES logged nearly 560 hours of volunteer service to support the cleanup mission of the Nebraska Army National Guard between November 1 and November 7. "During that time, Midlands ARES was always able to get the message through," Joseph says. This was critical in those situations where the Guard's radios or cellular telephone service were unable to perform. 


Return to the October 1997 Snowstorm Report