On April 27th 2011, Madison County witnessed a destructive tornado event – as part of a massive storm system that resulted in over 305 tornadoes in a three day period across the southeastern US. This is twice the previous record for a single event, which was set in 1974. There were approximately 326 fatalities during the entire outbreak from April 25 to April 28; 236 of these were in Alabama. Along with numerous smaller tornadoes, Madison County caught the tail end of an EF5 tornado that started near Hackleburg in Marion County, and ended in Franklin County TN – a total track of over 100 miles, with a maximum path width of 1.25 miles, and peak winds of over 200 mph. More detail is available from these NWS links :
These storms in North Alabama also produced an unprecedented electrical power outage in the TVA distribution system, resulting from damage to over 300 transmission line towers. With no electricity, most major services were shut down completely and communications were extremely limited.
This is exactly the type of scenario that hundreds of Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES) groups practice and prepare for. Our Huntsville-Madison County Emergency Management Agency (HMCEMA) recognizes that our group has these capabilities, and provides us with facility space and equipment within their Emergency Operations Center (EOC). From this base we can help coordinate communications and relief efforts between the various agencies. Even before we had received word from TVA that we would likely be without power for several days, our group of ham-radio operators were activating the plans we have in place on how to assist with the tornado recovery.
Over the following week our ARES/RACES operators would provide communications and information coordination support covering a wide range of subject matter, for a diverse support effort. The power outage only lasted for 5 or 6 days, but the clean-up and recovery will be on-going for months.
On this blog we will be posting various ‘Situation Reports’ (SitReps) as we generated and dispatched to our Alabama state level counterparts at the AlabamaEMA EOC. Other groups may find these useful in looking forward into their own response plans. Feel free to post comments and/or questions. We will review these reports ourselves to look for ways to improve upon our own response… We know we can do even better. We wish we will never have to.
We have also received congratulatory commendations from the National Weather Service, for our valued participation in the spotting and tracking of these storms as they swept across our region – as well as from our sponsors at the HMC EMA – thanking our group for exceptional service to the community.
As time allows these will also be posted here.