WILMA  DEPLOYMENT

Bill Barron, W1WAB, member of Sun City Center Amateur Radio Club volunteered to help out with relief efforts in the aftermath of hurricane Wilma.  We are pleased to present on this page a few of the photos he had taken and his comments related to this deployment.

The following is a recap of my experiences on being deployed to assist in Hurricane Wilma relief efforts:
William Barron W1WAB

The damage from the storm started to appear just south of Sarasota and I topped off the gas tank   at Punta Gorda; the last place that had power/gas. This made me somewhat nervous   crossing Alligator Alley as I had only 9 gallons in cans -- but I made it into the Ft Lauderdale area about 2pm with still 3/4 of a tank.

No serious damage -- other than streets filled with trees and debris could be seen.  But all power was out and all the street lights damaged. Cars on the 6 lane streets crept thru   intersections -- a nerve racking thing -- made even more difficult as every street sign   was missing.

I found my way easily enough to the EOC -- a good thing as the local hams   had changed the PL tone on their repeaters without informing the State!    The EOC is a 3-story 'bunker' without any windows -- located in a pile   of broken trees and debris~

 I checked in -- and got a "feeling" about the place. No credentials issued; just   a plastic visitor pass. I went to the 2nd floor and was confronted by 200 people   in a Star Trek type of setting-- every person in the group of 12-man tables had a PC; while big screen TV's gave live feeds from all TV networks.

 I found the hams stuck in a side room behind this eerie setting. The facilities were actually not bad,   but the hams were weird. Apparently out of 8,000 amateurs in the area, only FOUR had volunteered for   service -- and these guys were completely disorganized. I soon discovered why: they hadn't had a drill   in 3 years and had no standing/relationship with anyone in the EOC!  Yet, they were the only ones   with communications!

POD

I was sent out to man a POD [point-of-distribution] but when I got there at 3pm they had shut   down as they were out of supplies. So I came back to the EOC, had dinner, and slept on the floor   of a side room for the evening while the TV's blared and the 2nd and 3rd shifts of the EOC workers   came and went. Early the next morning, I went back to the POD, set up in a small park. Even without any good ID   [except for my Katrina badge] I managed to cajole the cops into letting me into the place   so I could set up my radio.  The fire chief in charge -- and the National Guard -- we're thrilled to see me as their SAT and cell   phones didn't work -- and no supplies were on hand for the growing number of cars lined up!

I made a call back to the EOC -- demanded that the 4 local hams find someone at the EOC to tell that the   POD was devoid of stuff. Amazingly, it worked and 6 huge semi's showed up in an hour!

 

Area for POD (Point of Distribution)

Delivery Finally

Taking Inventory

Distribution in Progress

6000 Cars passed through this line in One Day

The stuff was unloaded and counted   and then the distribution began    Over 6,000 cars passed thru our POD during the day. It was lucky the Guardsmen [just back from Afghanistan] were there -- as the Red Cross failed to deliver our meals for the volunteers. Most of them drifted off about noon--just before one lady coming to get water-- handed over 30   cheeseburgers she had cooked for the volunteer workers.

Yeah, the State has now ordered more Guardsmen to the area. Even with the troops help, I finally had to join the handout line. I was tired and sore when I crept back to the EOC that night.
The next day, all the PODS and shelters had phones so I was net control   for our one deployed team.

created  October 30, 2005

 

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