March 14, 2012

W9TDI getting instruction from CC EMA Director Les Kavanaugh after March 2 tornado
W9TDI getting instruction from CC EMA Director Les Kavanaugh after March 2 tornado

On Friday, March 2, a strong cold front approached the Southern Indiana area. This system unleashed several powerful tornadoes.

Clark County Indiana RACES activated a weather net during the storm event, and was relaying weather reports to the National Weather Service in Louisville. Once the storm passed, we started getting reports of massive damage in the northern parts of Clark County, in the vicinities of Henryville and Marysville. Clark County Emergency Coordinator John Shean, N9TV, made contact with Les Kavanaugh, director of Clark County Emergency Management. Around 4 p.m., it was determined that the Clark County RACES team was needed to provide communications.

Core members of our RACES group rushed to the scene to set up our command post, started dispatching amateurs to posts through the affected area, and set up tactical frequencies and call signs.
 The situation we entered was one in which cell phones were out, and most of the landlines and infrastructure was down or gone. In addition, our served agencies had significant communications problems on their 800 MHz system. Portions were down or overloaded during the first 12 hours of the disaster. The Indiana Department of Homeland Security sent resources to establish a new radio network for the involved agencies, but this was not in place for some time. Our group helped dispatch search-and-rescue crews to affected areas, secured oxygen for a displaced victim, and located insulin to mitigate a medical emergency.

The National Weather Service survey teams have determined that the affected areas were hit with EF-4 and EF-1 tornadoes.

After the situation stabilized, the group started work on coordination between needs and resources. Our hard-working team would find out what resources were needed and find a source for them. When volunteers didn't know where to go to help, we contacted agencies to see where they were needed. Operations continued at full strength (at times 10 posts) for an entire week. Even today, 12 days after the event, a small group is still handling logistics and getting the job done. "It's what we do."

Jeffrey Brady
Asst. EC, Clark County, Indiana