Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES®) volunteers in the Maryland-DC Section activated in the wake of regional flash flooding on May 27. Hit especially hard was Ellicott City, where vehicles were reported to have been washed away by fast-moving flood waters upward of 10 feet deep. At least one person was reported to be missing.
“As many watched Alberto, radio amateurs in Maryland watched more and more rain locally,” said ARRL Assistant Maryland-DC Section Manager and Public Information Coordinator Ken Reid, KG4USN.
By 5 PM, heavy rain, as much as 8 to 10 inches, soaked portions of central and southern Maryland.” The flooding disaster was the second since 2016 in historic downtown Ellicott City, which was still recovering from the earlier event. High water also affected Arbutus, Dundalk, and Catonsville. Section leadership asked radio amateurs in the flood-affected areas to check on the health and welfare of their neighbors. Reid said high-water rescues were needed in Perry Hall and Patapsco State Park.
When the flooding quickly became serious in several locations, MDC Section Manager Marty Pittinger, KB3MXM, activated ARES in eight central Maryland counties at 6:30 PM EDT, and 15 minutes later, more than 40 ARES volunteers reported to their respective 2-meter nets in five counties. The majority of flood-affected communities were in Anne Arundel, Prince Georges, and Howard counties. Amateur Radio volunteers in the MDC Section provided additional situational awareness, and Pittinger interfaced with Atlantic Division leadership, Maryland Section Emergency Coordinator Jim Montgomery, WB3KAS, and state and local authorities.
“Many county [emergency operations centers] in affected areas were also activated. Anne Arundel County ARES and Howard County ARES were in communication with their local Emergency Management Agencies and were both told to stand by in case of need,” Reid said. Maryland Governor Larry Hogan declared a state of emergency.
“Regular situational awareness updates were shared throughout the nets to ensure communication readiness for served agencies, community leadership, neighbors, first responders, and fellow radio amateurs,” Reid said. Conventional telecommunications continued to function throughout the heavy weather, which caused road closures and power and natural gas outages.
The MDC ARES volunteers remained in duty until 10:15 PM on May 28. During the activation, radio amateurs made use of VHF, UHF, and HF capabilities, as well as Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) modes.