Category 2 Tornado

December 16, 2000 / Lauderdale County, MS

About twelve months have passed without very much activity. No storms, few searches, and very little emergency training. Then at about 1140 hours local on 16 December a category 2 tornado touched down in the Marion and Lauderdale areas in Northeast Lauderdale County. Four businesses, many homes and mobile homes were damaged or destroyed. There were hundreds of trees broken or uprooted. Over 17 persons were injured; with one of them diagnosed as critical. This person was air evacuated to Jackson for medical care.

When the tornado touched down many of the key ARES personnel were not aware that there was even a problem. The weather that had spawned the tornado had passed. It was making its way to Tuscaloosa, Alabama where at least 10 people would die with many more being injured.

After confirming that amateur assistance was not immediately required a net was called for the purposes of determining who was available to assist. We had 20 check-ins immediately and more showed up and stood by. We attempted to establish a link via UHF to Jackson but there was a break in the system. The HF link was established and worked fine throughout the early hours of the emergency. After the initial check-in the repeater was returned to use by the amateur community. There was nothing we could do until tasked.

Amateur operators were individually tasked to support the needs of the Lauderdale County Emergency Management Agency Director. Much of this was done by phone and county radio. We had hams at the Command Post in Lauderdale and at the LEMA office manning radios and phones.

Ben Duke, KD5EOE, was actively involved in the cleanup and only stopped when he had to get some rest for his final exams on Monday.

Amateur radio equipment was not a great player in this emergency. The repeaters were used but not as much as some would have liked. Amateur radio operators put in more than 230 hours supporting this emergency tasking. Thanks to each and every one of you that assisted. This also goes out to those of you who checked into the net and stood by waiting to be tasked.

Your EC was rusty due to the lack of things like this happening. This emergency brought to light the fact that we need more trained net control operators. It also showed that we need more training on how to use the linking system. Some amateurs felt slighted by the way the net was conducted and that they were not tasked to assist at the scene. Effort will be made to insure that if you wish to work at the scene and there is a need, you will be called.

If you wish to play a greater part in the ARES program please get with Donna, Gary or me and we will get you deeper into the program. We need the help.

Recovery from the tornado continues at this time. See pictures below.

73, WB5OCD