Hannibalians who were left without electric power for up to four days after the May 20 storm may not have been aware that the Hannibal Amateur Radio Club was involved in the storm tracking and recovery.
More about this can be learned by visiting with the club members today and Sunday, June 22 and 23, during the club’s annual field days exercises in Huckleberry Park. Events will begin at 8 a.m. today and continue until Sunday afternoon.
Don Vary, club president, said on May 20, “I had my weather spotters, who are trained by the National Weather Service, out getting weather conditions and reporting them to me (at his control station). I was forwarding them to the National Weather Service in St. Louis.”
Noting weather spotters are needed because “radar can only show you so much,” Vary continued, “we have somebody like myself at the control station. Everybody radios in to us. ... We report what a spotter is reporting (to the NWS), and they in turn pass it back to 9-1-1 and say ‘set off the sirens.’”
Although club members perform a needed service, Vary added, “we stress you do not put yourself in danger.”
During a storm, the club also provides ham radio service when electricity is off. “Part of our responsibilities involved working very closely with agencies like the Salvation Army and the Red Cross, as well as other emergency agencies, both locally and nationwide,” he said.
Field days will include a 24-hour contest beginning at 1 p.m. today. The goal is to be in contact with as many amateur radio stations across the nation as possible in 24 hours. This will be done on emergency power, such as generators and solar panels. Portable antennas will be set up in the field.
The public is invited to participate, according to Vary. This program is called “Get on the Air” (GOTA). This station will be controlled by a licensed operator and is designed to allow unlicensed people to send messages. “If you want to send a message to somebody, we put it out on the air,” he said. This was a popular event last year.
Three radios will be used simultaneously during the contest, Vary said. “We will have the station for the public and a regular voice station and a Morse Code station.”
If a storm should pass through Hannibal during the two-day events, the equipment will be shut down until it is over, he said.
This year’s field days slogan is “When all else fails, ham radio works.”
The local club has about 40 members, Vary said. Anyone interested in becoming a licensed radio operator is invited to contact him at (573) 221-8205 or club secretary Fred Miller at (573) 221-2429.
Page 2 of 2 - “We are always looking for new members,” Vary said. “We had a class and are getting new people licensed.”