Alaska River Watch has Continues

5_17 River Watch Flood Map

Discussions have begun with the Alaska Weather Forecasting offices.  There are some disturbing facts that may affect Alaska severally as breakup begins and spring continues. It is noted the ground is still frozen, the temperatures are rising and now the storms coming in are mainly rain and could become heavy.  So as happens every year, the ice breaks up and begins to flow down river, blocking areas and causing flooding.  Since the ground is still frozen and snow is melting in the mountains and low lands, there is no place to go except into the rivers, rising the levels.

As I had put out earlier we have been asked to assist the Fairbanks and Anchorage Weather Forecast offices by submitting reports of what we have observed.  As hams scattered around Alaska and near a lot of river and streams we would be the first to observe the water rising.  So as discussion continue with the various forecasting offices, we need to prepare for 2 things.  One lets take notice of the level of the water in are area, either driving around, at home or while flying.  First of all be very careful, we don't need to travel a lot yet until we get control of this crazy virus.  2nd, if your area has flooded in the past, its going to flood this year like the worst flood we have had in the past.  Get your important items packed in waterproof containers.  Some times zip log bags, Tupperware and storage containers can save our pictures, important papers, books and electronics.

I have been putting out info and links as to where you can go to get weather spotter training and begin training for our new ALASKA SKYWARN program we are developing.  Harry/AL6F works for the Fairbanks weather office (KL7FWX) and they have a complete ham station, with Winlink established. for emergencies.  Harry is heading up our SKYWARN program.  Carol and I have taken the weather spotter training several times and just completed it on line again, but if you haven't, go to the links I provided on the MARA ARES website www.kl7jft.org and take the course.  There is a great reference book and a small test at the end. That is step one.  Next will be the SKYWARN courses that goes further into what it's about.

SKYWARN is very critical in the lower 48 where they have hurricanes, tornadoes and flooding.  Well all we have is earthquakes, flooding and snow and wind storms.  So with our unique capabilities and scattered like we are we can pass this valuable info onto the weather forecast offices to help them do their job better and could help save your neighbor and friends.  Now you may not want to be an official spotter, that's fine, but at least you have a little knowledge that would help you to help us.

To start, safely go to your near river and streams where you've seen flooding in the past and will probably see again and put in a marker, or put a surveying tape on a tree at the edge, something for a starting reference and log in the time and date, location, (lat and long if you have it), and check it about the same time each day. Driving back and forth to the store or work once we get back to it, check it and keep track of what you find.  Maybe you have an old broken measure tape fasten it to the marker or tree so you can use binoculars from a safe distance to see how the levels have changed.  Is there ice flowing are trees or ice blocking the river or stream. Do we have erosion picking up that may affect a house, neighborhood, or road?  It doesn't take you long and it is very important.

Start monitoring the VHF and HF nets and pass info along to the Net Control or get a message to me, Don/KL7JFT or Harry/AL6F.  Hear are some links that you can use to find out about flood warnings:

River Watch Program

River Summary

Interactive River Map

Now to report weather or flooding go to these sites and please email KL7JFT and AL6F or if you have any questions.

RFC/River Forecast Center

For Fairbanks AOR:

For Anchorage AOR:

 

Mars Comex

The next MARS/Amateur Comex will be 11-16 May. As we have in the past we will be looking to contact Hams for information about the status of critical resources in their areas. This is a short series of questions to determine the operational status of things like Water, Transportation, Communications, Power, Sanitation and Medical. The responses are for real world actual status. Basically if the MARS Member asks the status of Water in your area the normal day to day response is Operational. Of course if an item is damaged for any reason and it actually failed, then report that. Also we need weather reports from our nearest airport or from  your weather station.

The MARS Stations will come up on area repeaters for example, using their Ham Calls they will make a statement like this “This is KL7YK, I am a MARS Station looking for input for the DOD Drill”.

We will also be looking for Hams outside of the population centers on HF, using 3.920 LSB. Same idea as above, you should hear a like statement on air from a MARS Member.

Also you can send Winlink msgs to kl7jft@winlink.org. Use the ISNAP and weather form found in the Global directory of Templates or send a WinLink MSG to KL7JFT with the Alaska Form.

Our operational window starts on 11 May and runs until 16 May. So we will be active during the week. Perhaps take a few minutes out of your week to monitor some of the area repeaters. In Anchorage the wide area Repeaters are at Grubstake 147.33, Site Summit 147.30 and of course the Military Club Repeater on 146.67. Someone locally will be monitoring as well for Hams so if you like you can come up on air and ask for a MARS Station. The exchange takes less then 2 minutes to complete. MARS Stations will be consolidating the Ham contacts into a formal message through DOD Channels. HQ Army MARS is generating QSL Cards for those Hams who participate as well to be mailed out after the drill ends. Hopefully those will be in your hands by the end of Mar, but being this is the government it may be months.

This is nationwide and statewide, we have members in North Pole, Fairbanks, MatSu, Anchorage and elsewhere. So this is the invite to our Amateur Partners to join us in exercising communications paths not only in Alaska but worldwide.

Why involved Hams? You live in the areas that could be effected by a disaster thus would have firsthand knowledge of what not working and needs attention sooner than later. Amateur Radio Operators are considered a trusted source for this information. The info itself is going to FEMA planners so they will know where the biggest problems are and where they should be sending support first. Due to the delays that come up on Amateur long haul bands from poor propagation to just too many operators using the spectrum, this information gets stalled getting to those who actually need it.

Using federal HF Channels we avoid that congestion anyway. These DOD drills involve both MARS Members and Military Comm Units. Nationwide there are quite a few Guard and Reserve units operating in these drills. We ask that you only provide input to Alaskan MARS Stations even if you do copy say an Idaho Mars/Ham station calling. Sending Alaska info to outside of Alaska will just confuse things.

MARS Operators are Hams first, we are all licensed operators just like you. Every contact with a Ham will be on Amateur spectrum using Amateur Call Signs. So no one need worry about the FCC getting excited. Its all above board.

If you’re interested in more information about the MARS Program please contact Don Bush KL7JFT or Ron Keech/KL7YK as well as the online resource like:

http://www.netcom.army.mil/mars/

http://armymarsregionten.org/

About US Air Force MARS

http://www.mars.af.mil/

There are still two programs but we are effectively interchangeable as far as our mission. We operate joint AF-Army MARS all the time.

Ron can be reached at ron.keech@armymarsregionten.org, Don Bush can be reached at don.bush@armymarsregionten.org for any Army MARS related questions.

AF MARS contact in Alaska is Pat Patterson at AFMARS0pp@gci.net