All Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES) districts and counties in West Virginia are on alert for possible activation in the aftermath of severe flooding, which has claimed at least 2 dozen lives, destroyed hundreds of homes, and damaged countless others. More than 30,000 were without electrical power at one point, but that number now is less than 8000. More rain has been forecast for the region, and President Barack Obama has declared a major disaster in the state.
“Currently there are no ARES/RACES activations in progress in West Virginia,” Section Emergency Coordinator Jim Stephenson, WV8JS, told ARRL. “The flood damage was extensive in many parts of the state; however, the wired telephone and cell phone systems have remained mostly operational.” Right now, 44 counties in West Virginia are in emergency status. Although the emergency in West Virginia is grave, Stephenson said there is currently no communication emergency. “It is amazing that the wired telephone and cell phone systems have stood up against this severe flooding,” he added.
According to FEMA, the President’s action makes federal funding available to affected residents of Greenbrier, Kanawha, and Nicholas counties, including grants for temporary housing and home repairs, low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses, and other programs to help individuals and business owners recover from the disaster’s effects.
West Virginia Gov Earl Ray Tomblin said he will pursue additional assistance for all affected areas. The governor said the National Guard and local emergency responders have been dealing with the effects of the flooding. FEMA officials toured the most heavily affected areas over the weekend.
Stephenson said that he and Kanawha County Emergency Coordinator Jason Means, W8KTM, spent June 27 at West Virginia National Guard (WVNG) headquarters in Charleston, helping to install an Amateur Radio station in the joint operations center. He said the station will have HF and VHF capabilities. “The WVNG has about 700 troops on the ground working and FEMA is in the state assessing damage,” he said. “West Virginia Section Manager Phil Groves, N8SFO, has been distributing food and water in the Richwood, Nicholas County, area.”
The flooding washed out the Greenbrier Classic PGA Tour event, which had been scheduled for mid-July at the Greenbrier resort in White Sulphur Springs. The resort has been providing accommodations for some flood victims.