As Tropical Storm Harvey heads southeastward, Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES®) team members are being advised that the impact to the region’s communications infrastructure has been relatively minimal so far, considering the strength of the storm and the magnitude of the flooding. South Texas ARES remains on standby as the response phase continues and sheltering becomes a growing need.
ARRL South Texas Section Manager Lee Cooper, W5LHC, told ARRL today (August 28) that the disaster will be in the response phase for several days, although needs may change later in the response phase or when it transitions to the recovery phase.
According to the FCC, most 911 centers are functioning. The agency has estimated that 95% of the cellular network is operational as well. The telecommunications infrastructure in Texas was hardened following Hurricane Ike in 2008.
There also is no current need for Amateur Radio volunteers from outside the South Texas Section, Cooper told ARRL Headquarters. The Section already has been in touch with the North Texas, West Texas, Oklahoma, and Arkansas sections for mutual aid. The New Mexico Section also has volunteered to assist.
ARRL South Texas SEC Jeff Walter, KE5FGA, said in a situation update over the weekend that nets should begin to take in and exchange information from the affected areas this week, noting that this can be done from home, where possible.
“Harris County and the City of Houston have issued a shelter-in-place order,” Walter said. “The local region is paralyzed. Resources are stretched to accommodate all calls for assistance. Take care of your family first, then if you are able to help in the recovery phase contact your local Emergency Coordinator or District Emergency Coordinator for instruction on what to do. Do not show up without approval from your local EC.”
Flooding in the affected region of southeastern Texas is of catastrophic and historic proportions, with torrential rain continuing and causing life- threatening flooding. According to a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) update, additional rain accumulations of 15 to 25 inches expected through the end of the week over the upper Texas coast into southwestern Louisiana. An estimated 12 million people are under a flash flood emergency in three counties as well as the City of Houston. Harvey moved back into the Gulf of Mexico today (August 28) and was expected to make a second landfall.
Tropical storm conditions persist along portions of Gulf coast, FEMA noted, and stronger thunderstorms associated with rain bands to the east of Harvey will pose a tornado threat. River flooding is expected from Houston to Corpus Christi and San Antonio/Austin, Texas, with the greatest threats near the San Bernard, Colorado, Navidad, and Guadalupe basins
Some 271,000 are without power in Texas as of 1200 UTC on August 28. American Red Cross shelters were reporting more than 3,000 occupants in Texas. The state Emergency Operations Center is at full activation, and Governor Greg Abbott has declared a state of disaster for 50 Texas counties, while evacuation orders and advisories are in effect for eight counties and several independent communities in Louisiana, where the state EOC is partially activated. A state of emergency also exists for all Louisiana parishes in preparation for widespread flooding.