The Orlando Sentinel from Orlando, Florida on September 19, 1989 · Page 4
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The Orlando Sentinel from Orlando, Florida · Page 4

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Orlando, Florida
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Tuesday, September 19, 1989
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Hurricane Hugo Amateur radio cuts through storm Hams get word through when communication giants fail By Michael Griffin OF THE SENTINEL STAFF In the wake of Hurricane Hugo, the communications links between Puerto Rico's 3.3 million people and the rest of the world were the voices of four ham radio operators. 'At least one of them was using his car battery for power and his voice was fading late Monday. ' The operator, known by his call letters. KP4SRM. had spent hours sending messages from his home outside San Juan to fellow ham operators across the globe. Now, only an operator on the Island of Mont-serrat could pick up the signal "I know you are on batteries and your batteries are fading," said VP5DNF. the operator on Montserrat, which also was heavily hit by Hugo. "I can barely read you. Please repeat your message." Silence. Only Montserrat could hear the response. "The hurricane has passed over your position and you are all right?" YP5DNT asked. "We're dealing with weak signals here. Good luck KP4SRM." The exchange was overheard at the Orlando home of Charles Watters who. as he has for hundreds of previous emergencies, banded together with other ham radio operators to relay news of the hurricane. In a crisis, the nation's Amateur Emergency Network of more than 200 ham radio operators helps relay messages to family members and authorities. Watters began monitoring the airwaves Sunday morning. By Monday afternoon the voices from Puerto Rico sounded tired and anxious. "NX5R, do you read me?" an unknown operator from Puerto Rico asked. "This is NX5R, go ahead," came a reply from Texas. "I would like to continue the message from Alberto." "Go ahead." "Message: We are out of electricity and all communications are down. We are OK Over." "Message received. We'll pass it along," NX5R responded. Watters said the message from Alberto is typical. The messages have been coming steadily, most of them going to South Florida and New York where many Puerto Ricans live. "This seems to be very, very bad," Watters said. "Much destruction, a lot of chaos. All the phone lines are down and most of the electricity. The biggest problem seems to be high tides . . ." Watters was interrupted by the sound of static. It rained in Orlando on Monday and the sound of drops hitting Watters' aluminum antenna crackled across his receiver like the rat-a-tat-tat of a machine gun. He turned some knobs, boosted the volume and continued to talk. "We got roofs blown off homes and a lot of flooding," he said of Puerto Rico. "It sounds bad." The network of radio operators was operating L.-, TT i t rx '"V i s -ri . A r, i r JOHN RAOUXSENTINEL Charles Watters in Orlando monitors radio messages from Caribbean areas hit by hurricane. much better than during past disasters, Watters said. All but a few operators stayed off the airwaves to keep them clear for word from Puerto Rico. Several around the state were designated contacts to receive messages and pass them along to family members. On Monday, Watters, whose call letters are W4RHE, received radio inquiries from Japan, Indonesia and Australia about Hugo. Some were curious, others were trying to get word to family members on the island. Ham radio operators have become a common link during natural disasters because they often fare better than telephone lines during bad weather. "Any kind of emergency or disaster you get this," Watters said. "People just have no idea how fragile modern communications are." Central Floridians help storm victims Relief efforts began Monday in Central Florida to help residents of Puerto Rico. Officials of the Greater Florida Minority Council in Winter Park said that as part of a statewide drive, clothes and medicine may be dropped off at Alliance Supply, 7595 Currency Drive, at Orlando Central Park. Those wishing to contribute money should make checks payable to the Puerto Rico Hurricane Fund and deposit them at the Citizens & Southern National Bank of Florida in Winter Park or any of its branches. Joining the council in the relief effort is the Orlando branch of the Puerto Rico Chamber of Commerce of Central Florida, (407) 352-2539. Chamber president Miguel Lopez said he hopes "Central Florida will join together to help in these humanitarian efforts." Helping in the collection of money and supplies are the weekly El Mundo newspaper in Orlando, (407) 290-1443, and Spanish-language radio station WONQ-1140 AM in Orlando, (407) 293-0000. The station is planning a fund-raiser next week. The Central Florida Chapter of the American Red Cross is also accepting cash donations as part of the relief efforts, said communications director Lisa Lorenze. Donations may be mailed to the chapter at 5 N. Bumby Ave., Orlando, 32803. CHARLIE JEAN Don't jump gun but stay tuned, Floridians told By Maya Bell and John J. Glisch OF THE SENTINEL STAFF Floridians were cautioned Monday to keep a close eye on Hurricane Hugo but not to prepare too early for a killer storm until there is a real threat. However, after conferring with hurricane forecasters, NASA decided to postpone Friday's scheduled launch of an Atlas Centaur rocket. In addition, officials began readying plans to protect the space shuttle Atlantis should Hugo threaten Brevard County. Bob Sheets, director of the National Hurricane Center in Coral Gables, spent part of Monday briefing the state's emergency management directors. He said Floridians tend to prepare too early for a hurricane and are desensitized when a real threat looms. "There's going to be plenty of time for people to react if the hurricane were to hit Florida," Sheets said. "Right now, take it easy, go about your normal activities but stay tuned." Forecasters said it would be Wednesday before they could pre-.dict whether Florida would have to face Hugo's fury. Officials of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, monitoring television weather reports, ordered kerosene unloaded from the Atlas communications rocket, poised for launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. NASA also began readying plans to move Atlantis back to the Vehicle Assembly Building. The plutonium-powered Galileo probe is in the shuttle's cargo bay. NASA officials will meet today and decide whether to go ahead with the rollback. The four-mile trip takes about eight hours aboard a crawler-transporter that moves at a top speed of 1 mph. A hurricane might not delay the launch of Atlantis, set for Oct. 12, because crews are several days ahead of schedule in preparations, NASA spokeswoman Lisa Malone said. A hurricane would disrupt preparations for one of two remaining flights this year. However, officials said they were not worried about the safety of payloads aboard either launch vehicle. Meanwhile, emergency officials were busy Monday dusting off evacuation and housing plans. Kathleen Hate, Dade County's emergency management chief, asked elderly citizens on Miami Beach and other coastal cities to begin notifying emergency officials if they would need help leaving their homes. "We have approximately 218,000 people over the age of 60 who live on barrier islands in Dade County," Hale said. "That's almost a quarter of a million people who would have to be moved out of that area and are most likely to need special assistance. That becomes a very complex operation." In coastal Brevard, most residents and emergency officials were taking a wait-and-see attitude. At Patrick Air Force Base near f 1 Cocoa Beach the military installation initiated HURCON 4, the first and least severe of four hurricane alerts, said base spokeswoman Terri Bracher. Bob Reymont, director of the Lake County Emergency Management Department, said flooding could force as many as 40,000 to leave their homes in Lake County. He estimated about 16,000 of those from mobile homes and flood-prone areas could be expected to go to a shelter. If Hugo were to come directly inland, the hurricane's rains would flood lakes and knock out roads surrounding them, said Reymont. "It would make your life miserable for a day or two." Reymont said he is trying to line up bulldozers and people to operate them to help clear roads if they are blocked by debris. He also is looking for generators to back up Lake County's equipment. Bob Lemley, Orange County's executive director of civil emergency management, said his staff spent Monday checking with Red Cross officials and double checking a list of emergency numbers. "We're sitting down and talking to one another, making sure that all our ducks are in a row," Lemley said. "At this time it's not necessary to do much else." Schools in Orange and Seminole counties would be opened as shelters for coastal residents and inland mobile home owners. Osceola was preparing to play host to evacuees from coastal areas. The county's plan includes 18 shelters with a capacity of housing 29,727 people. The plan says that only Osceola residents living in mobile homes or flood-prone areas should need to evacuate. In Volusia County the 33-year-old Port Orange draw bridge was scheduled to be closed today in preparation for demolition after a new highrise bridge opens across the Halifax River. But the Florida Department of Transportation will keep it ready in case an evacuation is ordered. Steve Homan, a DOT spokesman, said a bridge tender will stay on duty at the old span at least until any danger from Hugo passes. In case of a hurricane, the bridge is to be used only for evacuation traffic. The old bridge would add two more lanes of westbound traffic for the evacuation, Homan said. Capt. Joe Nasser, Volusia's director of emergency management and communications, said he will conduct an emergency-preparedness meeting at 11 a.m. today to update county employees on the situation. "We're not doing anything special yet, just meeting with some of the people who would have a role to play in the event the hurricane comes our way," Nasser said. Michael Griffin, Charlene Hager, Rick Tonyan, Lance Oliver, Ed Van Herik and Mike Lafferty of the Sentinel staff contributed to this report. Wire services also were used T'f , I W y l ASSOCIATED PRESS Photo taken from television monitor shows Puerto Rico residents wading through floodwaters left behind by Hugo. Hurricane surges X. --CBi- Va X Surge jj yj v Many hurricane deaths occur from drowning. Within the storm's eye, a violent drop in pressure has a 'plunger' effect on the sea where walls of high water are generated and radiate outward, flooding low- lying coastal areas. HUGO From A-1 McAda said the Federal Emergency Management Agency got a brief message from an Air National Guard unit in St. Croix telling of devastation on that U.S. island. The report from the 285th Combat Communications Flight bluntly said: "Initial assessment after Hurricane Hugo: We need help. St. Croix devastated by Hugo. 90 percent of buildings damaged, 70 destroyed. No power. No phones. No outside communications." The airport control tower was reported destroyed and the runway heavily damaged but repairable. McAda said FEMA had "very sketchy information" from the region and had been unable to contact either the Virgin Islands or Puerto Rico late Monday. The storm's winds overturned cars, stripped roofs off houses and office buildings and sent chunks of concrete plunging into streets in San Juan, where a third of the U.S. commonwealth's 3.3 million people live. Fifty airplanes were reported destroyed at the airport in Isla Verde. There was widespread damage in San Juan's Condado Beach area, where many of the island's large tourist hotels are. Shattered glass, strips of roofing and overturned trees littered the streets, and few drivers ventured out in their vehicles. Hugo cut power and disrupted international communications. One woman in a San Juan high-rise told radio station WOSO of u SENTINEL GRAPHIC seeing sections of the city darken as the first high winds and heavy rains hit San Juan. Widespread power losses also were reported in the Dominican Republic. Bands of people, mostly youths, looted damaged shops in San Juan and police patrols were reinforced at the main post office, political party offices and shopping areas. In a boutique on the ground floor of the two-story building housing The Associated Press bureau in San Juan, young looters defied winds hitting 100 mph at the peak of the storm and carried out armloads of women's clothing. The storm blew out the windows in the AP office on a peninsula between the sea and San Juan harbor, destroying its computers and office equipment. At 10:30 p.m. EDT Hugo's center was at latitude 20.1 degrees north and longitude 67.2 west, or 125 miles northwest of San Juan, said the National Hurricane Center in Coral Gables. It said Hugo was moving 12 mph in a wobbly northwesterly direction. Maximum sustained winds declined slightly over the day, to 110 mph, and hurricane-force winds extended up to 75 miles from its center, the forecasters added. Five people were reported killed, 80 injured and more than 10,000 homeless Sunday on the French island of Guadeloupe, relief officials said. Two people were killed in Antigua, Beacon Radio in Anguilla said, and six deaths were reported in Montserrat. Richard Weening of Milwaukee, Wis., chairman of Caribbean Communications Co., which operates the GEM Radio Network from its f Travel experts say Hugo may deal blow to tourism By Vicki Vaughan OF THE SENTINEL STAFF As Hurricane Hugo's devastating winds roared toward the Bahamas late Monday, travel experts said they are concerned that the storm will inflict enough damage to cripple the Caribbean's tourism industry. Travel agents and airline spokesmen said, though, that travelers headed for Caribbean destinations should have no trouble getting a refund or rescheduling their flights. Hugh Rankin, a travel management consultant at Phillips International Travel in Orlando, said major domestic carriers "have liberal policies" allowing travelers to receive refunds in the event of severe problems such as hurricanes. Spokesmen for the major U.S. airlines that serve the Caribbean said Monday that in the event of a natural disaster such as Hurricane Hugo, airlines waive penalties and provide refunds to those who want them. Also, airlines typically find flights following the disaster for those travelers who still want to make their trips, the spokesmen said. Central Florida travel agents said many Florida residents take advantage of lower rates by booking a Caribbean vacation during the off-season, from after Easter to Dec. 15. headquarters on Montserrat, said ham operators linked to the network said the storm killed six people on the British island and damaged 95 percent of the homes and the hospital. Nearly all of Montserrat's 12,000 residents were homeless and without food or fresh water, said ham radio operator Stuart Haimes of Queens, N.Y. Off St. Thomas, charter boat captain O.B. O'Brian told Miami TV station WTVJ that many boats and homes had been damaged. Most of the Virgin Islands' 106,000 residents live on St. Thomas and St. Croix Officials said stores in the St. Croix town of Christiansted were heavily damaged, and there were reports of looting. National Guard Adjutant Gen. Robert Moorehead said 1,000 people were evacuated to rescue shelters in St. Croix. Five people were reported killed, 80 injured and more than 10,000 homeless Sunday on the French island of Guadeloupe, relief officials said. Storm watches were in effect for parts of the Dominican Republic, and a hurricane warning was issued for the southern Bahamas, and the Turks and Caicos islands. Bernard Sternberg, a Sunrise, Fla., ham radio operator, said he talked to a radio operator who was on a boat in the eye of the hurricane as it passed over Vieques. "He asked us to pray for him and we did," Sternberg said. "We prayed for all of them." San Juan's Luis Munoz Marin International Airport, by far the region's biggest, was closed, as were schools, banks, courts and government offices. Another ham radio operator reported that the mayor and about 35 people in Humacao, near the southeast coast, were stranded in , a theater and could see storm, surges nearly 25 feet high. . Navy Lt. Cmdr. Steve Burnett,' spokesman for the Atlantic Fleet . in Norfolk, Va., reported "some., damage to buildings and housing" at Roosevelt Roads Naval Station on Puerto Rico's northeast coast. He said all Navy ships in that area had been moved north. Hugo is the fourth hurricane of ' the Atlantic hurricane season and ; is the most powerful to hit the region since David in 1979. In Paris, the French Defense Ministry assigned 3,000 soldiers,' two military transport planes and four cargo ships to help in restoring communications and emergency services to Guadeloupe. Meanwhile, at 10:30 p.m. EDT '. tropical storm Iris was centered at , 17.7. north latitude and 57.3 west longitude, about 275 miles east of the Leeward Islands. Iris was moving north-north-' west about 17 mph with top winds of about 60 mph. Forecasters said. ' strengthening was not likely be- cause it was so close to Hugo.

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