Colorado Floods 2013

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photo credits to Ueli Hauser, KB9TTI/HB9TTI and William Ellis


EM_Boulder+2013+homes+floodedHow Boulder, Colo., Prepared for ‘Biblical’ Rainfall

By: Elaine Pittman on January 27, 2014

It’s no secret that Boulder, Colo., was likely to experience a major flash flood at some point. Located at the base of the Rocky Mountains, the city rests up against a canyon from which a creek runs through Boulder, nearly cutting it in half. The Boulder Creek has been called the No. 1 flash flood risk in Colorado, and 15 creeks with flood plains affect more than 15 percent of the city. Cementing the likelihood of a major event, in 2004, the University of Colorado at Boulder’s Natural Hazards Center listed a flash flood in Boulder as one of six “disasters waiting to happen” in the U.S.

And though few may have expected what the National Weather Service described as “biblical rainfall amounts” in the second week of September, Boulder was prepared for the flash flooding that followed the torrential rainfall — the city and county’s engineers, scientists and emergency managers had been preparing for decades.

Mitigation and preparedness efforts can be traced back to a series of events: The flood of 1969 led the city to adopt flood plain regulations after four days of rainfall drenched the area with more than nine inches of water. Then in 1976, the Big Thompson flood served as a lesson for all Colorado communities that are at risk of flash flooding. Over a four-hour period, up to 12 inches of rain came down in the mountains near Estes Park, causing the state’s deadliest flash flood — 143 people were killed and another 150 injured. And in 2010, to the west of Boulder, the Fourmile Canyon fire burned 169 homes and 6,181 acres, leaving a burn scar that greatly increased the likelihood of flash flooding because of a lack of plants and undergrowth to trap moisture. These natural disasters created a more prepared city and county, and while four lives were lost in Boulder during the 2013 flooding, the lessons and initiatives from past disasters proved immeasurably valuable.

“Since the Fourmile fire, a tremendous amount of community education and also government preparedness went into flooding because the burn scar created a very unique flash flooding risk that normally isn’t there,” said Mike Chard, director of the Boulder Office of Emergency Management.

“We created polygons with residents that were specific to high flood-prone areas with crafted messaging that was unique to that area,” he said. “So the fire chief or sheriff could say, ‘Give me polygon 17 with message two,’ and the dispatcher would pull it up and off it would go.”In early September, the National Weather Service told Boulder’s emergency managers that monsoon season was coming and how it could affect the area. Then the weather pattern developed and heavy saturation was headed for Colorado’s Front Range. “The scenario was set for the 11th with what the Weather Service says is our worst-case scenario, which is an upslope storm where it’s piling up against the mountains,” said Dan Barber, deputy director of Boulder’s Emergency Management Office.

As the emergency situation played out, so did the city and county’s strategies. Here’s a look at how Boulder weathered the storm.

Internal policies have shifted the city and county Emergency Management Office from a planning and preparatory function into also a predictive function, Chard said, so when there’s a possibility for an intense storm, the emergency management staff follows the severe weather protocol and mans the EOC to maintain situational awareness. This allows the office to be prepared to supply first responders with vital information in case the situation gets to the point where they need to step in and make public safety-related decisions like whether to evacuate an area.

This is key because one of the most dangerous aspects of a flash flood is that it doesn’t allow for much lead time. “We have to shift operations from identifying and gathering information to making decisions about public safety all within about an hour,” Chard said. “If peak flow is achieved in about 20 to 30 minutes, flooding will start about 20 minutes after that. So we have a very narrow window of time.”

And that’s what was done on Sept. 11. The severe weather protocol was implemented at 11 a.m. and by 4:00, “we knew we were in trouble,” Chard said. The more than nine inches of rain that fell on Sept. 12 was a record for a single day; instead of issuing evacuation orders, alerts told residents to climb to safety.

Numerous alerting methods were used to get the message out — sirens blared; the Everbridge mass notification system sent texts, calls and emails to residents; the Emergency Alert System and Wireless Emergency Alerts were used; and messages were distributed via social media. In this case, the flooding was widespread so messaging wasn’t needed for just select groups of at-risk residents. But if the flooding had been threatening specific areas, Boulder was prepared with hazard-specific alerting polygons. Chard said that in many cases, people draw a large polygon on a map and alert people within that polygon, into the thousands in some cases, and getting the message to that large of an audience can cause a delay in the system.

Aside from sending information out to residents, a new role in the EOC was created to provide situational awareness based on what people were posting online. The E-Sponder monitors, filters and disseminates social media information in Boulder’s EOC. “For example, college kids were playing in the water and we were able to see it happening online,” said Amy Danzl, an emergency management specialist with the office. “What was really good for us was we could see the levels of water immediately.” Watching social media posts about the flood also helped the EOC follow the public sentiment. Danzl said the same time the e-sponder observed that messages were becoming negative on Twitter and people were getting scared, the EOC received information that the situation was getting worse. “Knowing the tempo of the public gives us and our public information officers a better idea on how to respond and frame the message,” she said.

Building situational awareness using social media also helps to push information to first responders about what’s happening on the ground. They look for trends, Chard said, instead of responding to every post. He said the model is to triangulate data — if a topic is seen three or more times, they start to track and verify the information before moving forward on it.

Another tool aiding awareness is a network of rain and stream gauges that was installed by the Urban Drainage and Flood Control District, an independent agency that has been assisting Colorado local governments with drainage and flood control programs since 1969. The gauges feed real-time information to officials and also send an alarm if the water reaches predetermined levels. Chard said they read the rain gauges for homes that are at the  bottom of the canyons to help determine peak flow and if residents need to be warned about a possible flash flood.

“We also use the stream gauges to verify the flow that will be happening in the creek and then that is good information to give to our city of Boulder partners and stakeholders to say, ‘Here’s what we are predicting will come your way,’” he said.

The collaboration with the National Weather Service, Urban Drainage’s meteorological firm, and city and county hydrologists all create a coordinated and informed response. Another entity that plays into this is the Multi-Agency Coordination group. Composed of government, nonprofit and private organizations, Denzl said the group has been meeting for many years and the participants are depth trained to work in the EOC. The group is organized into sections, like infrastructure and community services, and its members were advised on Sept. 9 that because of the ground saturation and weather predictions to be available in case the situation escalated — they are the “foundation of the EOC,” according to the office’s website.

Another group that aids coordination was developed after the Fourmile Canyon Fire. The Intermountain Alliance ties together six mountain communities with the Boulder Emergency Management Office, and the planning effort for the past two years has been around an event that cuts the cities off from the plains where the resources are, said Chard. And that’s what happened during the September flooding. The town of Lyons was widely publicized for being cut off from outside aid after roads and highways were washed out. The same situation happened in Jamestown, and the mountain communities supported one another as they had been training to do. Chard said they were able to open shelters, deal with unmet needs and provide safe sites for people who were coming out of the valleys and to the high points.

The mountain community leaders also partnered with the Boulder County Amateur Radio Emergency Services, and 80 people have been trained in ham radio operation in the last two years. The flooding took out telephone poles but communication links remained between the ham radio operators and Boulder EOC.

“We were able to maintain effective communications back and forth from the hills to the valley, which was critical in being able to tell people what’s happening, what we can get you and find out what they needed,” Chard said. “We were able to air drop in resources and coordinate that with the people who were up there through ham radio — it was a pretty incredible coordination effort.”

Having a scalable logistics and resource mobilization system also proved to be key. Boulder Emergency Management was in the process of building the system before the 2010 Fourmile fire, and many lessons learned from that event helped improve processes, helping it to be able to scale to the level needed during the flooding. Denzl, the resource mobilization and logistics section chief, filled 422 orders, many of which requested multiple resources. The outside aid agencies were accustomed to working on large-scale events and were ordering hundreds of port-a-potties, thousands of pallets of water and even a circus tent (to be a briefing room for the incident management team).

“From a local level, our system has to be very scalable to order everything from ink pens for our EOC to multimillion dollar orders for equipment and staff,” Denzl said.

Within Boulder, a flood management program has been in place for more than 30 years, and since 1997, the city has spent about $45 million on mitigation projects, which include floodgates, underpasses and storm sewer improvements.

Going further back, flood plain regulations were adopted in response to the flood of 1969, said Katie Knapp, the city’s engineering project manager. In addition, Boulder joined the National Flood Insurance Program in 1978, and its regulations exceed the program’s minimum standards. The city requires, for example, that residential structures are elevated two feet above the base flood water elevation, whereas the national standard is to be at the base flood elevation.

Boulder also is a class six in the program’s Community Rating System, an incentive program that lowers flood insurance premiums. And those efforts seem to being paying off. “The city has more flood insurance policies than any other community in the state,” Knapp said, but she didn’t have exact numbers.

The area within the 100-year flood plain at the greatest risk for life and property damage was established as a high hazard zone. The city doesn’t allow any structures that are intended for human occupancy in that zone, and it looks to acquire property there when possible. The buildings are removed and overbank grading allows additional capacity for floodwaters, said Knapp.

Another mitigation project is a system of multiuse trails that run along the creek corridors kind of like a linear park area. Called the Greenways, the trail system allows the creeks area to have additional water capacity while also providing recreation areas, improving storm water drainage and protecting resources. Being multiuse allows for numerous funding opportunities, Knapp said; adding underpasses, for example, crosses into transportation, so multiple objectives can be met by each Greenways project.

Boulder’s combination of projects and initiatives through the decades proved invaluable to the city during the flooding. “You have many bridges and roadways that may have overtopped or were cut off at some point but are standing today because of those mitigation efforts,” Chard said. “The mitigation efforts were paramount to response and recovery.”

As the city and county move forward with recovery, lessons learned will continue to shape a better prepared community. As of press time, the Boulder Office of Emergency Management had not completed an after-action report, but “things went well for us,” said Chard. The office will examine the early warning systems, operational command structures, how the EOC interfaced, and the quality of communication and information sharing.

One issue that stuck out was the need for communities to have their own sheltering and unmet needs plan. During this event, the American Red Cross was strapped for resources and, along with other aid organizations, couldn’t get into the affected areas for a some time. “We have been working to build that into our response plan,” Chard said.

In addition, some of the stream and rain gauges were washed away. Barber said they will look into replacing them and determining if they need to be in different locations as well as the possibility of adding them farther up the canyons.

The city has been holding open houses in different neighborhoods to show residents the flood plain maps and identify where flooding occurred. At future meetings, Knapp would like to incorporate stations to provide people information on how they can protect their property as well as help them with personal emergency planning.

“In the past it was a challenge to try to explain to people that even though we haven’t had a big flood recently, we do have flood plains, there is a high risk and we do have regulations that you to have to follow,” she said. People would build their homes just outside of the 100-year flood plain so they could have a basement, and they would push back against the building elevation requirements. “Now that we’ve actually experienced a big flood event, I have had a few people come up to me and say, ‘I didn’t want to comply with these flood plain regulations at the time, but I am glad I did; the measures I put in helped save my house,’” Knapp said. “I think now that we’ve had this flood, people are going to take it more seriously than they did in the past.”


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ARES Working outside the ‘normal’ box

Dennis Dyer, WØXYZ
 loveland 1

September 2013 brought historic flooding to the Northern Colorado area.  Working in the Loveland EOC, the ARES team was performing communications to the cut-off mountain community of Estes Park using local  ham radio repeaters.  Although the city of Loveland was experiencing massive flooding, communications systems in the city seemed to be handling the needs.   With floodwaters still rising the river began exceeding it’s banks and changing course.  The floodwaters were threatening the city’s only pipelines that deliver drinking water to the city.  On top of the destruction, all network and phone connectivity had been severed to the critical water treatment plant which was located in a valley past two ridgelines on the west side of town.  The only command and control link to the water treatment plant was a single voice radio on the already overloaded state DTRS 800MHz  trunk radio system.

ARES was tasked with providing a high-speed network link between the Power and Water Treatment Headquarters outside the flood area and the water treatment plant.  ARES had planned and drilled for just such a scenario although it involved a wildfire in the foothills.  Exactly three years prior to the day the Reservoir Road fire happened west of Loveland and even though it was only a few miles out of town, the Incident Command Post’s location made cell and internet impossible.  Out of the After Action from this fire the Emergency Data Network (EDN) was developed and funding acquired.  The original EDN system consisted of equipment to allow one mountaintop relay and the water treatment plant would require two.  ARES members gathered equipment from their personal caches to provide the additional mountaintop relay.

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Microwave link antenna at the remote site directing the signal back towards town.

 Over the night ARES members working with Loveland Fire Rescue Authority (LFRA) personnel installed the six microwave radios and associated hardware providing a 20Mb link to the water treatment plant.  The next day ARES personnel installed VOIP phones from their cache to provide voice communications and supplemented the solar power at the remote site.

This system continued to provide both network and phone capability to the water treatment plant for 4.5 months until local infrastructure could be repaired and replaced.  During that timeframe the EDN microwave link continued to function with only 1 major interruption.   One morning the link was down and upon inspection by plant employees they found the CAT5 cable between the two microwave radios at the solar powered remote site had been chewed up by cows.  Replacing the cable inside of conduit solved our cow problem.

As ARES members on the Loveland EOC team we gained invaluable experience by implementing this ‘Emergency Data Network’ that we had only practiced in the past.  And, we felt great pride knowing that our prior planning was used to serve our city agencies in this disaster.

“This would not have been possible without the excellent cooperation between the City Of Loveland Fire Rescue Authority and the Loveland EOC ARES team.  Special thanks to Captain Pat Mialy, Emergency Manager with the Loveland Fire Rescue Authority for her continued support and belief in us.”

At one point Tom Greene, Utility information manager stated, “I want to thank everyone that has been working and supporting us on the temporary emergency microwave solution. If it wasn’t for the ARES group our Water Treatment Plant would not be able to function and our 70,000 plus customer population would not be happy. This critical communication system has provided 3 months of service. We are in your debt, big time.”

loveland 3Dennis WØXYZ and LFRA personnel installing batteries
and solar panel to power the remote relay.


As Big Thompson floods, Loveland officials prepare for disaster

loveland meetingLOVELAND – Below a canyon highway pummeled to impassibility with car-sized boulders and flooding lies a city preparing for disaster.

“We believe the incident is going to escalate,” Loveland Fire Chief Randy Mirowski said at an emergency City Council meeting Thursday evening, after which his agency assumed command of the “2013 Loveland Flood.”

As the city’s ditches, culverts and detention ponds fill with water, city spokesman Tom Hacker said the city is running out of storage, especially if as much rain falls as expected. City departments are beefing up staff and planning shifts as rains are predicted to continue through the weekend.

“We’re into something here for the long haul,” Hacker said.

Flooding caused eight Loveland road segments to close south of U.S. Highway 34, and more closures could follow on Friday. City Public Works Director Keith Reester said the city’s contractor for traffic-control devices and barriers ran out of supplies, and the city is using a second contractor.

U.S. 34 through Big Thompson Canyon to Estes Park is closed in both directions, and state traffic officials were still waiting Thursday evening for conditions to lighten so they could get access to assess the damage.

“Areas are still flooding pretty heavily,” CDOT spokeswoman Ashley Mohr said at about 6:45 p.m. “It’s pretty severe.”

Mud-and-rock slides have been observed, Apple Valley bridge could be collapsed and other segments of U.S. 34 could be collapsed, according to the Colorado Department of Transportation.

Reester said he’s opened his home to some of his department’s employees stranded from their homes and families by the highway’s closure. About 1,000 evacuation notices were sent out for people at risk for floods in areas along the canyon and near Loveland.

An evacuation center on 800 South Taft Hill Road in Loveland can serve about 100 people and was reported to be about half full Thursday evening. Another center is planned to open if needed, city officials said.

Mirowski said some people were trapped in the water Thursday, and a ladder was used to pull them out.

As storms brought more flood damage across Colorado’s Front Range, three people outside Larimer County were reported dead, and the town of Lyons was surrounded by water.

Mohr said Estes Park residents who want out of town can take U.S. 34 west into Grand County over Trail Ridge Road, but that’s a long, long way to get back to Fort Collins or Loveland.

Numerous Estes Park residents lost phone service because a cell tower was flooded and lines were down, officials at the meeting said. They were communicating with the town via ham radio.


Thank You Note from St. Vincent de Paul School

November 4, 2013

Here’s a scan of the letter I received from Sister Maria at the St. Vincent de Paul school. As you may recall, the school had sent 49 7th graders and 12 adults to High Peaks Camp. I helped them evacuate to Highlands Camp stayed with them, maintaining radio contact and then, with BCARES help at the EOC, got them buses from Nederland and a ride to Denver while the roads were still out. They sent me a check for $150.00 to help us develop the Allenspark Radio Network as a part of MERN. I will send a thank you letter to Sr. Maria and forward the $150.00 to APEN for use in improving our network. Thanks goes to BCARES for all its hard work during the flood!

Steve Coles, KDØRFT


See complete story of this incident below entitled: Amazing help in evacuation as written in the ARRL Letter for September 26, 2013


Boulder County Sheriff’s Office honors BCARES for their flood response work

To All:

The attached citation and corresponding commendation was awarded to BCARES at the Boulder County Sheriff’s Office 23rd Annual Awards Banquet this past Saturday. The nomination for the award was made by the staff at the Boulder County Office of Emergency Management and approved by the Boulder County Sheriff’s Office.

It was a great honor and privilege to be able to accept this award on behalf of all of the BCARES membership. As the accompanying citation states, “BCARES members deployed to the EOC from September 12th to September 20th providing emergency communications to the mountain radio operators for over 700 hours.”

Many other deployments were made to support evacuation shelters, isolated mountain towns and provide live video coverage from the Boulder Airport during air operations that supported search and rescue and evacuations.

Thank you all for a job well done and having done so in a professional and responsible manner which reflected great credit upon each individual and upon the BCARES organization as a whole.

Commendation 2013Until the next “light” appears at the end of the tunnel. . . . . Prepare, Be Ready and Stay Safe.

Warmest Regards,
Allen Bishop
BCARES Chairman and District E.C.


Boulder County Sheriff’s Office honors flood response

Colorado National Guard, LifeBridge Church, Flatirons Church among award recipients

Longmont Times-Call

POSTED:   11/11/2013 09:22:57 PM MST

Spc. Daniel Lapp of the Colo. National Guard drives along Colo. Highway 66 into Lyons as the St. Vrain River rages on Sept. 13, a day after the river began flooding. On Saturday, the Boulder County Sheriff’s Office honored Colorado National Guard First Sergeant Jon Crowe for leading vehicles in to the town and beginning evacuations from the devastated town. (File photo)

The first sergeant who led Colorado National Guard troops into Lyons, radio operators who helped mountain towns communicate during the September flood, and churches that provided shelter and money during the floods were among honorees at Saturday’s annual Boulder County Sheriff’s Office awards.

The sheriff’s office holds the yearly gathering to present awards to staff, community members and organizations for distinguished work in the prior 12 months. Response to the historic floods in September gave the office plenty of fodder for the awards.

Colorado National Guard First Sergeant Jon Crowe led the first of many vehicles into Lyons on Sept. 13 to begin evacuations of the mountain town after flood waters reached 6 to 8 feet deep, according to the sheriff’s office. The route established became an evacuation and supply route.

Boulder County Amateur Radio Emergency Services, or BCARES, was honored for communications work into isolated mountain areas that allowed for coordination of helicopter rescues, medical response and supplies and information during the flooding.  

After the Four Mile Fire, BCARES recruited mountain community members, trained them and prepared them for the FCC Amateur Radio License – 60 new ham radio operators who were invaluable during the flood.  Between September 12th and September 20th, BCARES members provided over 700 hours of support and information to isolated areas and served as a life line of information to communities of people who would otherwise have been cut off from the rest of the County. 

Flatirons Community Church members were honored for raising $60,000 in one weekend. The funds were used to purchase five six-person utility vehicles, or UTVs, which were given to the sheriff’s office and four fire districts for flood rescue operations.

LifeBridge Christian Church was honored for opening its doors to serve as an evacuation site for flood evacuees from three counties and as a recovery site once evacuees were given other shelter. Sheriff Pelle reached out to Pastor Rick Rusaw in the middle of the night to ask if LBCC could serve as an evacuation center and staging site. During the first 9days: LBCC served as an evacuation center for three counties, provided 1300 nights of shelter to evacuees, 10,000 meals to evacuees and first responders, safety and wellness checks for 2700 people, provided hundreds of volunteers who gave thousands of hours to the initial phase of disaster response, they served as a resource center for Lyons resident to receive access passes, resources for temporary housing, and Mental Health medical services provided by LBCC members from Longmont United Hospital.  Within ten days of the floods, LifeBridge had already shifted to a recovery hub they provided 50 home cleanups and 2000 volunteer hours of recovery service.

The flood awards, however, were not the only ones given out Saturday. Jayson Lee Davey, 17, was honored for providing first aid to a man who attempted suicide in the Bunce School Road area on July 4. He is credited with saving the man’s life.

Other award recipients were Deputy Steve Meer, Reserve Deputy of the Year; Stephanie Harp, Support Services Employee of the Year; Detective Jeremy Shaving, Operations Officer of the Year; Deputy Darrin Quillin, Jail Officer of the Year; and Carla Weinheimer, Non-Commissioned Employee of the Year.

Sheriff’s cadets Joe Douglass, Garrett Eastman, Lucas Pelle, Angela Sena and Austin Jensen were honored for volunteering more than 500 years of service to the sheriff’s office in the past year.

Thirty-nine employees received sheriff’s commendations, 12 teams received the Sheriff’s Teamwork Award of Excellence, two units received the Distinguished Unit Citation, eight employees received meritorious service awards, five deputies received life-saving awards, five deputies won bronze stars, and five deputies won silver stars.


Ham radio operators played a role in recent flood response

Local members of the Amateur Radio Emergency Service respond when the emergency operations center is activated
By Jessica Maher Reporter-Herald Staff Writer
POSTED:   11/06/2013 08:25:22 PM MST
Rob Strieby, the Northeast All Hazards Region ARES (Amateur Radio Emergency Service) emergency coordinator, plugs a laptop into a digital radio to reconfigure its operating frequencies on Oct. 31 at the Loveland Emergency Operation Center. Strieby was part of a team of ham radio operators that worked to maintain communication throughout the flood with an amateur radio station set up at the emergency operation center. (Jenny Sparks)

There’s a must-call list in the event of an emergency, and most people can guess who’s on it — police, fire, public works staff — but there is also group of volunteer radio enthusiasts on the front lines, though behind the scenes.

During the Front Range flood, the city of Loveland activated the Emergency Operations Center on Sept. 12, calling on city emergency crews to respond to the Fire Administration Building on East Fifth Street. As with any other time the center is activated, local members of the Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES), were included in that call.

And as always, they responded.

“They’re my bread and butter when it comes to not having to worry about losing emergency communications, either with crews in the field or with the general public,” said Loveland Fire Rescue Authority Lt. Pat Mialy, who coordinated efforts in the emergency operations center.

The ARES members — better known as “hams” — are a group of licensed amateur radio operations who practice their ham radio operating skills in their spare time and prepare to swing into action in the event that a disaster wipes out modern forms of communication.

That was the case early on during the flood in Estes Park, and for a while, Loveland team leader Rick Kile said ARES members provided the only link in and out of the town.

“For the first four and a half days, we were on the radio constantly working with hams in Estes Park,” Kile said.

For three days, the 13 local ARES volunteers deployed around the clock in rotating shifts in the Loveland operations center. While their main task in the first days was keeping in touch with Estes Park, the hams also used a mix of analog and digital equipment to connect with the other emergency operations centers around the state and amateur radio crews working across the Front Range.

It’s the kind of work that’s to be expected when the hams are called out for major events — it’s work they’ve done during the High Park fire, the Windsor tornado and even this summer’s USA Pro Challenge. But when the city’s Water Treatment Plant located in the Big Thompson Canyon lost remote connectivity, the ARES crew took on a new task.

To establish communication between the plant and city officials, ARES members installed four data links — one at the Loveland Service Center on North Wilson Avenue, one at the plant itself and two along ridgelines in between.

“The data links are a combination of emergency deployment equipment from the EOC and our personal equipment,” said Northeast All Hazards Region ARES Emergency Coordinator Rob Strieby, who was one of four ARES team members who worked on the links.

Installation is no easy task under normal circumstances, but reaching the ridgelines during the flood event required Loveland Fire Rescue Authority-escorted night trips up the mountain on ATVs. Set-up took about two or three hours for each site, with one ridgeline accessible to a power source but the other requiring solar panel and battery installation.

“It’s an example of one of the many times our ARES people have, No. 1, stepped up to the plate and number two, how their expertise and knowledge has helped us solve communication problems we wouldn’t be able to solve without them,” Mialy said.


October 23, 2013

ares-clARRL – ARES

The ARRL has been asked to present at the 2014 NVOAD annual conference. The presentation is expected to highlight ARES response to the CO flood. The Fall meeting of National VOAD is in Arlington, VA.

The mission and purpose of NVOAD (National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster) is to provide a forum where organizations share knowledge and resources throughout the disaster cycle — preparation, response and recovery — to help disaster survivors and their communities.


Colorado Radio Amateurs Recognized for Fires, Floods Response


ARRL Rocky Mountain Division Director Brian Mileshosky, N5ZGT, earlier this month presented the radio amateurs of Colorado with a plaque in appreciation of their assistance in the aftermath of the wildfires and flash floods that struck that state earlier this year.

“Director Mileshosky and other members of the ARRL Executive Committee, which was meeting in Aurora, Colorado, invited Colorado Section Manager Jack Ciaccia, WMØG, and SEC Robert Wareham, NØESQ, to join us for dinner, so we could thank the amateurs in Colorado, through them, for all their work during the fires and floods,” explained ARRL President Kay Craigie, N3KN.

The inscription on the plaque reads, “Presented to the leaders, members and volunteers of Colorado ARES and the entire Colorado Section field organization. In appreciation for your service and dedication during and following the wildfires and flooding of 2013.” It was signed by Rocky Mountain Director Mileshosky and Vice Director Dwayne Allen, WY7FD.

award ARESaward ARES tags


On the Colorado Flood Disaster Response

October 16, 2013

By: Rick Palm, K1CE – Editor, ARRL ARES E-Letter

The Colorado flash flooding disasters and ARES responses of September 2013 are well-documented in QST, the ARRL Letter, on the ARRL website and elsewhere, but some excellent coverage of ARES reports of sophisticated modes/applications like ATV, PSK, and APRS in use; newspaper and network television coverage, letters of appreciation from survivors; and some fantastic photos can be found on the Colorado Section Manager website here. Don’t miss it.

I was struck by many of the accounts, but of special note were the efforts of the Boulder County ARES group, which has a history of serving emergency management officials by providing fast Amateur Television imaging to give managers a visual on what was happening on the ground: “Boulder County ARES group hams either communicated from the Boulder County EOC, one of the shelters at Niwot High School or Lifebridge Christian Church, from one of the flood isolated towns in the mountains west of Boulder, or on the flight line of the Boulder Municipal Airport sending live ATV pictures from drone aircraft of the search and rescue, and evacuation efforts to the Boulder EOC and via uStream across the country. Some of these hams doubled as communicators for the Boulder County and American Red Cross Disaster Assessment Teams as well, providing ham radio, the only communications available at the time, and automatically transmitting their DAT vehicle positions via APRS. There are many other ARES teams around the Front Range with similar activities and hours to report. The total number of volunteer hours provided by the ham radio community will be in the thousands and all at no cost to their cities and towns.”

And this report on APRS use: “The Boulder County Land Use and the American Red Cross Disaster Assessment Team both requested ham radio operators to ride along and provide their VHF radio communications back to the Boulder County EOC because there was no other reliable source of communications to be had at the time. These hams also carried APRS gear along with them and provided complete time, location and distance data along their routes. That APRS info has proven valuable in the aftermath for showing what areas have already been surveyed.” For these info leads, thanks go to John Murphy, KCØJPO, ARRL PIO for Adams County (CO) ARES, who also passed along this additional report, which reflects much of the activity as typical of many ARES groups across the region: Region 1/District 1 ARES was deployed on September 12 in response to the September Front Range major flooding and road closures. A shelter was setup in the Adams City High School on that afternoon. The Red Cross started to setup the shelter and quickly discovered that cell phone coverage for that area was poor. A request for Amateur Radio operators to provide communications was sent to Red Cross Headquarters, and the call went out to R1D1 ARES in Adams County for support. Within two hours, Amateur Radio communications were setup and providing a clear link to the Red Cross Headquarters, and the Colorado State Emergency Operations Center (EOC). The shelter saw an influx of 150 to 200 people with 150 people spending the night. With the communications link open, food, water, cots and a dumpster were provided for the shelter. The shelter manager was greatly appreciative of ARES efforts and said “we made things happen.” The shelter was open for 30 hours then demobilized.


Amateur Radio Emergency Service – State of Colorado

Colorado Section Manager Jack Ciaccia, WMØG, and Colorado ARES Section Emergency Coordinator Robert Wareham, NØESQ, were invited to join the ARRL Executive Committee for dinner on Saturday October, 5th. The Executive Committee of the ARRL was meeting in Denver for its quarterly meeting and included ARRL President Kay C. Craigie, N3KN; CEO David Sumner, K1ZZ; Rocky Mountain Division Director Brian Mileshosky, N5ZGT; along with 6 other Division Directors. The Executive Committee directs the affairs of the ARRL in between full meetings of the ARRL Board of Directors.

Ciaccia and Wareham were invited to the dinner to recognize the efforts of Colorado ARES members and volunteers in response to wildfires and flooding in Colorado over the past two years. A plaque was presented to the two which states:

“Presented to the Leaders, Members and Volunteers of Colorado ARES and the entire ARRL Colorado Section Field Organization in appreciation for your service and dedication to the communities of Colorado during and following the wildfires and flooding of 2013.” 

In response to the presentation, Wareham told the committee that he appreciated the wording on the plaque because “The real credit belongs to those who spent nights in shelters and worked 12 hours-a-day for days in a row supporting the disaster response.”

Members of the committee questioned Wareham on the “Colorado Model” and how that success might be replicated in other sections. Committee members noted that Colorado ARES has handled more major disasters over the past year than any other ARRL section. ARRL President Kay Craigie also recognized the positive media coverage of Colorado ARES and the benefit to the amateur radio community.


This article appeared in the OnLine Edition of Radio Resource Magazine, a magazine for public safety communications professionals.

Hams Fill Communications Gaps During Colorado Floods

October 02, 2013

Photo courtesy Ueli Hauser

By Kristen Beckman, Assistant Editor

Public-safety communications networks in Colorado suffered minimal damage and outages during historic flooding in early September, and amateur radio operators made considerable contributions to the disaster’s communications efforts.

Seventeen counties were impacted by flooding caused by storms that dumped more than a foot of rain in parts of the Denver metropolitan area, especially communities north of the city, including Boulder and Larimer counties. Eight people died as result of the flooding and nearly 6,000 people had to be evacuated from their homes. Several major highways were damaged, stranding hundreds of citizens and completely cutting off at least three towns.

“The only damage to the Boulder city/county law enforcement/fire radio networks during the flooding was water leakage at one site that was quickly resolved,” said Dean Scott, technical systems supervisor with the Boulder County Sheriff’s Office. “Because we run backup on the primary dispatch channels the short term outage was transparent to the user and the repair occurred without interruption to the network.”

“Our statewide Digital Trunked Radio System (DTRS) worked very well during the initial days of the flooding,” said Dave Rowe, Larimer County radio systems administrator. “We did lose one DTRS site due to power and T-1 infrastructure loss. This had minimal effect since it had a small footprint and all residents had been evacuated.”

The city of Lakewood, a west Denver suburb, was also hit by flooding, but its communications equipment and operations were not impacted.

“Lakewood was really very fortunate during the flooding period,” said Steve Davis, public information officer for the Lakewood Police Department. “Other than receiving a very unusual amount of rain for this time of year, we had no known damage or real issues. The creeks and rivers were certainly very swollen, and we did activate our emergency operation center (EOC) one night in anticipation of flooding but never experienced any.”

Hams Fill Communications Gaps

Amateur radio supplemented public-safety networks during flooding response and recovery efforts. More than 60 local Amateur Radio Emergency Services (ARES) volunteers provided communications functionality at Red Cross shelters and state and local emergency operations centers, according to the American Radio Relay League (ARRL).

ARRL Colorado Section Manager Jack Ciaccia said ARES volunteers were staffing almost all EOCs in the affected areas, providing either voice or packet communications between EOCs and shelters. Amateur radio operators also provided some of the only means of communications out of towns that were completely cut off by flooding, including Estes Park, Lyons and Jamestown.

Amateur radio operators helped coordinate the delivery of supplies by helicopter to stranded citizens, and in one case, helped locate medical supplies needed within a community that could not be reached by outside responders. The group also aided in the evacuations, including 65 school children who were camping when the flooding hit.

With the immediate threat of flooding past, amateur radio operations switched to helping with flood damage assessment. In Boulder County, ARES volunteers rode in county vehicles equipped with mobile ham radio gear set to operate with area repeaters to help with damage assessment efforts.

Ciaccia said Boulder’s ARES group is accustomed to working closely with local law enforcement and responders on a variety of disasters, particularly forest fires, where the group brings digital communications and advanced technologies including video capabilities to help responders monitor and react to incidents.

Boulder benefitted from recent efforts to bolster the network of amateur radio equipment and operators in the area. Ciaccia said a wildfire in the county several years ago convinced some local mountain residents that there was inadequate conventional communications systems available to help citizens know how to evacuate from fires and flooding. As a result, the Boulder ARES group began to deploy a repeater system in the mountain areas west of Boulder consisting of standard VHF repeaters, propane generators, outbuildings and crystals. The project, which so far includes two repeaters with a third repeater planned, was self funded and is credited with saving lives during the flooding.

The group also began recruiting ham operators in the area by offering to teach new users about the technology, help them get their licenses and give them a repurposed wideband radio. In the past year, Ciaccia said 65 new operators have been licensed in the area, and he noted that ham numbers are on the rise nationwide, with more than 750,000 operators licensed.


APRS Used for Disaster Assessment Teams

The Boulder County Land Use and the American Red Cross Disaster Assessment Team both requested ham radio operators to ride along and provide their VHF radio communications back to the Boulder County EOC because there was no other reliable source of communications to be had at the time. These hams also carried APRS gear along with them and provided complete time, location and distance data along their routes (the blue and red lines). That APRS info has proven valuable in the aftermath for showing what areas have already been surveyed. Below is a sample map from the Google Maps APRS.FI showing both vehicles paths during a day’s operation. This link was made public by the ARRL and over 8000 hits were logged!



BCARES Volunteer Hours

Listed below are the names and call signs and the hours volunteered by the hams that participated from the Boulder County ARES group during the recent floods. These hams either communicated from the Boulder County EOC, one of the Shelters at Niwot High School or Lifebridge Christian Church, from one of the flood isolated towns in the mountains west of Boulder, or on the Flight Line of the Boulder Municipal Airport sending live ATV pictures of the helicopters bringing back the evacuees and broadcasting those pictures to the Boulder EOC and via uStream across the USA. Some of these hams doubled as communicators for the Boulder County and American Red Cross Disaster Assessment Teams as well, providing ham radio, the only communications available at the time and automatically transmitting their DAT vehicle positions via APRS. There are many other ARES teams around the Front Range with similar activities and hours to report. The total number of volunteeer hours provided by the ham radio community will be in the thousands and all at no cost to their Cities and Towns. Good work one and all!

Boulder Flood Deployment from September 12th to September 20th

(best approximation from records)  Statistics by: George, KAØBSA

flood hours 2013

BCARES hours of service: 730 man-hours

BCARES members participating: 32 members

Continuous EOC Net Control: 210 hours

Packet Messages to and from Shelters: 80 messages

APRS Tracking for Red Cross & Damage Assessment teams: 45 man-hours

ATV / flight line video: 60 man-hours

Internally, at the EOC, ICS-213 message forms where used and WebEOC postings were vital.

We maintained radio connections with the State EOC and Weld/Larimer County EOC.

Some of our first contacts at the EOC were with MERN operators through the Allenspark repeater, installed just one month before, and they were vital through the entire event.

THANK YOU to North Central Region ARES and the Rocky Mountain Ham organization for the loan of two (2) APRS units and the portable VHF repeater for Nederland. We also borrowed three (3) Motorola MotoTRBO Trunking Radios to use as back-up radios.


estes article

Note from the parent’s of the daughter mentioned above: 

Gentlemen, fellow hams,

Just received my e-mail from you about the club’s participation during the recent flood. The article also referred to our daughters potential failing medical condition and rescue in the Allenspark area. My wife and I were living in Nebraska at the time and were extremely fearful for Sarah’s life. Our other daughter living in Estes Park went to the Police Dept. for help, but was not confident of receiving the urgent help needed in time. I knew you guys would have something going on, so I made my call into the Estes Valley ARC IRLP link, and to our GREAT relief was “EASILY” able to work with Doug, K6UA! Doug, keeping us closely updated and informed, was so full of hope and resolve for us. You just don’t know, unless you have experienced help coming from people laying their lives down for someone else how that feels! We are still talking about it at home and sharing with others that Ham Radio Rocks!! We are in the process of writing to the Estes Park newspapers about our experience. Again, we are  so grateful for your accessibility and help. Such a refreshing, practical thing to have for help in time of need. Apparently “practice does make perfect”. What a class act!!!

Update – Sarah is still recovering. Doctor said could be a month or so yet for full regulating medical recovery. However she is back to work.  Forwarding this article to her.

Ron (KDØHCH) , Loy (KDØIHF) , Jonothan (KDØHCF)

And another thank you note was received for Doug and EVARC’s work helping to evacuate children at the YMCA of the Rockies Camp in Estes Park.


And yet another “Thank You” note was received:

September 20, 2013

Dear Art, (Art Mutschler, KDØTXY)

I just wanted to let you know how much I appreciated the call from a Ham Radio Operator who gave me news that Janna and Emily (last name withheld… ed.) were OK . We were VERY worried about them and it was incredibly frustrating to not be able to contact anyone in Estes Park.

What would we do without  Ham Radio Operators???   It is that old school technique that has saved me from  worrying  several times!

When Cheyenne suffered from a tornado in 1978, I could not get through to my blind Aunt who lived on “the Avenues ” and lived alone . I talked to a Ham Radio Club in Windsor, Colorado, who said they would let me know in an hour or so. I was so surprised and pleased when the Windsor club radioed someone in Cheyenne who drove to her house.  I am sure he was also hiking into the neighborhood due to downed power lines and trees. When I received a phone call saying that they had contacted her and that her neighbors were looking after her, I was very relieved.

The Operator asked my Aunt to provide a message to pass on to her niece. The message I received was, “Aunt Winnie and Scotch and Soda are fine.” (Scotch and Soda were the names of her cats!) It brought a moment of  laughter and  relief!

I want to especially commend you and your Ham Radio colleagues for volunteering to provide a very vital communications tool.  Estes Park is very fortunate to have you as a resident . Thank you again and may God bless you!


Julie  Mills



We also received this very well done newsletter from The Radio Club of Peru – OA4O, which has on page two a reprinted article written in Spanish of the Flood and about Colorado ARES Communications.


Más de 60 voluntarios del Servicio de Emergencia de Radioaficionados (ARES) se han desplegado en los alrededores de los condados afectados por las inundaciones en
Colorado, brindando comunicaciones críticas a los refugios de la Cruz Roja y a los
centros de operaciones de emergencia locales y estatales. Las Fuertes lluvias han
causado verdaderos tsunamis que han causado que los ríos y arroyos se desborden, las carreteras y las propiedades queden devastadas y que una cantidad no determinada de residentes se tengan que desplazar. Se sabe que al menos 3 personas han fallecido.

El responsible de la ARRL en Colorado, Jack Ciaccia, WMØG, dice que con la energía
interrumpida en las comunidades afectadas y muchas torres de telefonía celular a lo
largo del río Big Thompson afectadas, los radioaficionados están apoyando en el tráfico médico, de salud y bienestar, a través de las comunicaciones entre los centros de evacuación y los Centros de Operaciones de Emergencia. Cada Centro de Operaciones está siendo atendido por gente de ARES y casi todos los centros de evacuación tienen un comunicador de ARES, dando servicio en voz o packet.

Lo pueblos aislados de Estes Park, Lyons y Jamestown fueron o siguen confiando únicamente en los radioaficionados para las comunicaciones con el exterior. Jamestown ha debido ser evacuado. Todos estaban guarecidos en la escuela secundaria dijo Jack. El estuvo en contacto con el alcalde tratando de conseguir la ayuda para la comunidad lo antes posible. Hams En Estes Park los radioaficionados estuvieron trabajando fuera del Centro de Operaciones en Town Hall, el cual está más alto. “No hay donde ir; todo está inundado”, dijo WMØG. El único colega en Lyons estuvo operando fuera de un centro de evacuación en la escuela primaria local. Dijo que la Guardia Nacional ha estado reubicando algunos evacuados, conforme se llenó el refugio.

El sábado 14, el congresista Cory Gardner visitó el centro de operaciones de emergencia del Estado expresando su agradecimiento a los radioaficionados que han respondido al desastre de esta inundación histórica. Además pidió a al Coordinador de Emergencia de la Sección de Colorado, Robert Wareham, NØESQ, extender su agradecimiento a todos los miembros de ARES.

En el condado de Boulder se han desplegado aviones miniatura no tripulados llevando cámaras de Amateur TV para evaluar las zonas afectadas en regiones más remotas, y ubicar las personas que necesitarían ser rescatadas. Estos drones – una aeronave de ala fija y un helicóptero híbrido gas/eléctrico – han estado transmitiendo video ATV en UHF hacia tierra y simultáneamente grabando en una memoria. El helicóptero puede permanecer en el aire por más de 5 horas, grabando imágenes para que los Centro de Emergencia evalúen. El coordinador en Boulder, Al Bishop, KØARK, dueño de Reference Technology, es la compañía que proporciona los drones.

En el último año el equipo de ARES en Boulder crearon la Red de Emergencia de la Montaña (MERN) instalando dos repetidores. La intención era a educar a la gente de las regiones montañosas para que sean radioaficionados. Unas 65 personas obtuvieron su licencia. Al cortarse la energía, la única forma de comunicación que quedaba fueron los dos repetidores que operan con generadores alimentados con propano. El sistema ha operado y se ha podido utilizar en una situación de emergencia.

Según las noticias 19 condados de Colorado permanecen con alto riesgo de inundaciones. These include Boulder, Arapahoe, Weld, Park, Jefferson, Larimer, Clear Creek, Adams, Douglas, Broomfield, Gilpin, Denver, Logan, Morgan, Washington, El Paso, Teller, Pueblo y Elbert.
Las autoridades del Estado alertan a los residentes que se mantengan fuera de las carreteras. La Interestatal 25 de Wyoming a Denver ha sido cerrada, así como parte de la Interestatal 70.

BOLETIN OA_ 17-09-13


Amazing help in evacuation

The ARRL Letter for September 26, 2013

Public Service: “Amazing Help” — Hams Play Critical Role in Colorado Flood Evacuation

Amateur Radio volunteers assisting with communications in the aftermath of the devastating Colorado flooding came in for high praise recently for their role in helping to safely evacuate youngsters and others from a mountain environmental education center threatened with being cut off by road washouts. In an Op-Ed piece last week in the Longmont Times-Call, Sandra Harem, the executive director of the JPII Outdoor Lab in Estes Park, Colorado, cited the “amazing help” from hams and others in getting the students, school staff and Lab staff out of harm’s way on September 12.

“The staff of the JPII Outdoor Lab would like to extend our heartfelt gratitude to the volunteers of the Mountain Emergency Radio Network[MERN] and so many others who helped the seventh-grade students, chaperones and staff of St Vincent De Paul Catholic School and staff of the JPII Outdoor Lab get home safely to their families,” Harem said.

Photo taken during the ARES damage assessment in the Town of Lyons, which is between Estes Park and Longmont. Lyons was cut off for a couple of days, and the communications between Lyons and ARES volunteers at the Boulder EOC was primarily via Amateur Radio. [Ueli Hauser, KB9TTI/HB9TTI, photo]

On September 12, Harem called the Larimer County Sheriff’s Office to inquire about road conditions. Because of the heavy rainfall, she and the school’s assistant principal were getting a group of seventh graders ready to leave as soon as possible. “The sheriff’s office said Highways 34 and 36 were closed,” she recounted. “We worked on alternative routes.”

An hour later, the director of the affiliated High Peak Camp told Harem that they needed to relocate in case power went down. The sheriff’s office advised relocating to a Red Cross evacuation center in Allenspark, which subsequently invited the group.

Hearing the call, MERN volunteer Karel Kosman, KDØRFT, contacted fellow MERN member Steve Coles, KDØRFQthat the group needed help evacuating. Coles deployed to the JPII Outdoor Lab and helped relocate the students, staff and chaperones safely, Harem said.

After Coles left to help others, communication was cut off, so the assistant principal and Harem drove to the Allenspark Fire Station and to the Estes Park Police Station hoping to get better information. “It took us until 9 PM to return to our group at Highlands [the shelter site] by hiking and a few helpful car rides, because Highway 7 had ruptured in two places,” Harem said.

Early the next morning, Coles was back to help with communication with the Boulder County Office of Emergency Management. According to Harem, Coles advised the OEM to ask the Colorado Department of Transportation if it might be possible to take buses on the Peak to Peak Highway. A plan evolved to have the buses meet the group at the point of a highway washout near the junction of Highways 72 and 7, then walk the students across the compromised road to the buses. The Archdiocese of Denver, the superintendent of Catholic Schools and the Boulder County OEM okayed the plan.

That afternoon, buses arrived on Highway 7. “We transported the students, chaperones, St Vincent staff and JPII Outdoor Lab staff to the meeting point, and all students were reunited with their families at St Vincent De Paul Catholic School that evening,” Harem said.

Among others, Harem praised Coles for “his tireless patience, persistence and care of all of the students, chaperones and staff,” and Kosman “for radioing on our behalf to Steve Coles.” She also thanked all MERN members “for making it possible to have such effective communication during an emergency.”

Colorado Section Manager Jack Ciaccia, WMØG [ARRL photo]

ARRL Colorado Section Manager Jack Ciaccia, WMØG, says MERN is an Amateur Radio repeater system built by members of the Boulder County (BCARES) group and was the brainchild of BCARES Emergency Coordinator Allen Bishop, KØARK.

“The two MERN ham radio operators that were involved in this rescue, Steve Coles, KDØRFQ, and Karel Kosman, KDØRFT, are two of some 60 mountain residents who attended the ham radio classes put on by BCARES members in the mountain communities over the last year and were recently licensed after taking the FCC exam given by ARRL Volunteer Examiners who are also members of BCARES,” Ciaccia pointed out.

He notes that the hams at the Boulder OEM and the EOC were BCARES operators who were monitoring all traffic from the MERN repeaters as well as from other EOCs on the air from flooded counties along the Front Range as well as communications from the state EOC. “The hams who happened to be monitoring at the Boulder EOC at the time were George Weber, KAØBSA, and Dave Sharpe, KIØHG,” Ciaccia said. “These two hams, coincidentally, had been Steve and Karel’s MERN ham radio license instructors and Volunteer Examiners as well as part of the BCARES group who built and installed the MERN repeaters.”

Ciaccia said it was Weber and Sharpe who coordinated with the Boulder OEM and Transportation Group to arrange for the buses, then got them on their way by relaying communications from the MERN radio operators in the flood-stricken zones.


ARNewsline™ Flood Follow-Up

A follow up to last weeks report on ham radios response to the massive flooding that hit the state of Colorado. Bill Pasternak, WA6ITF, is in the newsroom with the latest:

Ham radio volunteers assisting in damage assessment following the recent flooding to hit parts of Colorado have a new piece of equipment to work with. These are remote control drone aircraft equipped with fast scan amateur television cameras that permit ARES volunteers the ability to provide actual real time pictures to served agencies from the air. Amanda Alden, K1DDN, lives in Canon City, Colorado and is part of the Ham Nation reporting team:

K1DDN: “… They’ve done some awesome things with amateur TV and using drones at the same time. It’s Allen Bishop who controls this, and he is one of those up there in Boulder County ARES (BCARES). It has been a pretty neat introduction to helping them see where damage has been in remote locations and things like that.”

The Allen Bishop that Amanda refers to is Boulder County ARES Emergency Coordinator, KØARK. According to ARRL Colorado Section Manager Jack Ciaccia, WMØG, Bishop is one of the key people involved in rescue radio operations and kind of the father of the Mountain Emergency Radio Network or MERN as described in last weeks newscast. Meantime Ciaccia says that amateur television played another role early on in this emergency:

WMØG: “We have been broadcasting live ATV pictures of the evacuation choppers from the National Guard back to the EOC’s and we have been linking that through the Internet all across the country back to FEMA headquarters in D.C..”

While the rains are gone there’s still a lot of damage assessment to be done. And as Jack Ciaccia, WMØG, told us last week, ham radio volunteers will be there for as long as they are needed.

For the Amateur Radio Newsline, I’m Bill Pasternak, WA6ITF, in the newsroom in Los Angeles.


Amateur Radio Newsline # 1884 September 20, 2013

Audio Link


Ham radio was once again a first responder as a week of
torrential rainfall brought destruction to parts of
Colorado.  Many of these were the same areas that were
damaged by a series of wind-driven wildfires earlier this
year and back in 2012.  At least seven people have been
confirmed as killed by deadly flooding and efforts to locate
more than 1,000 missing people continue.

Some of the worst flooding followed the path of the High
Park and Waldo Canyon fires.  The 2013 Waldo Canyon fire was
the worst in the state's history burning more than 18,000
acres near Colorado Springs and destroying more than 300

Jack Ciaccia, WM0G is the ARRL Colorado Section Manager.  He
says that as the flood waters began arriving on Thursday,
August 12th, ham radio operators were ready:


Ciaccia"  "The hams in the local ARES groups reported to the
regional and local county emergency operations centers and
manned their positions.  Plus the state Emergency Operations
Center in Centennial Colorado was opened and staffed by
senior ARES personnel"


The unprecedented storms dealt a heavy blow to both
utilities and communications.  News reports say that many
cellular telephone towers have either fallen, were washed
away or are simply without power.  This in turn cut off
wireless and broadband communications to several
communities.   Also destroyed have been powerlines and some
landline-based telephone service.  This has left ham radio
as the mainstay of communications into and out of these


Ciaccia:  "The next thing to happen was we started hearing
of evacuation centers being opened kind of spontaneously
because a large building in a dry area was the only
criteria.  And as fast as we could we needed to get
communications to them because in many of the mountain areas
where these evacuation centers were there was no other means
of communications"


As the operation progressed, some hams were assigned to
monitor the Boulder County ARES Repeater as well as the two
Mountain Emergency Radio Network Repeaters located in high
altitude communities.  The latter turned out to be true life
savers.  Again, WM0G:


Ciaccia:  "We were fortunate to have some hams located in
some of the remote areas which is (the result) of another
project that we had created in the past year since the fires
called the Mountain Emergency Radio Network.  This is a
small network of repeaters that the ARES hams have trained
upward of 60 mountain residents and who have gotten their
licenses.  We then repurposed a bunch of VHF radios - both
handy talkies and mobiles for them to utilize these

"And just tonight we were told by the Fire Chief in one of
those remote communities that had it not have been for that
MERM repeater system that there probably would have been a
lot more deaths because people were able to communicate with
each other as to what was happening, where the destruction
was and how to get out."


On Monday the 16th the ARES groups received new marching
orders.  In addition to search assistance, evacuations,
shelter communications and logistics another role has been
added.  That of disaster assessment:


Ciaccia:  "Disaster assessment teams from the Red Cross and
from the counties will be mobilizing and we have been asked
to provide hams, radios and also video cameras to record
video of the disaster areas.  So we will be taking on that
assignment as well."


According to Ciaccia so far some 200 ham radio volunteers
have been deployed in and around the various flood-stricken
counties with some providing communication where no other
means existed or still exists.  News reports say that at the
height of the flooding that the towns of Estes Park, Lyons
and Jamestown were relying on ham radio as their only
contact with the outside world.

This is a still developing story and we will have more in
future Amateur Radio Newsline reports.  (ARNewslineT)


Colorado ARES Teams Transition to Flood Damage Assessment


Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES) volunteers in flood-stricken communities in Colorado are shifting to damage assessment duty. Boulder County ARES plans to shoot video of the devastation as teams move into the field — a job Boulder County ARES Assistant Emergency Coordinator George Weber, KAØBSA, says is “something new” for his team. Damage assessment follows on the heels of an extended activation to help rescue, evacuate, and shelter flood victims.

“Boy, have we been busy!” he told BCARES members in announcing the callout. “This is even more than anyone ever planned for. I heard the term ‘500-year flood’ being used.”

Seven damage assessment volunteers will be riding along in county vehicles, equipped with mobile ham radio gear set up to work through several area repeaters. Plans call for using APRS as well. “You will have to be self-sufficient for food and water, as you might be out all day,” Weber cautioned. He expected the activation to last “a few days.”

On September 16, Colorado Section Emergency Coordinator Robert Wareham, NØESQ, represented AREA as Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper (D), FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate, KK4INZ, US Senators Mark Udall (D-CO) and Michael Bennett (D-CO), US Representative Cory Gardner (R-4), Mike Coffman (R-6), and Ed Perlmutter (D-7) visited the state emergency operations center. Wareham said that he and Emit Hurdelbrink, WØUAW — a Regional Emergency Coordinator — spoke briefly with Hickenlooper “who thanked us for our service,” Wareham said. He added that Fugate also spoke with him about the ARES post-flood activities. Wareham reported in a post to the ARRL Colorado Section Facebook page that ARES volunteers have been putting in 12 hour or longer days since the flooding started.

A Mountain Emergency Radio Network (MERN) repeater in Allenspark was instrumental in a medical rescue that involved a recently licensed ham. A ham in Nebraska, via an EchoLink repeater in Colorado, advised Robert McDonald, KDØSCC, of Allenspark, who drove 3 miles to alert fire dispatch. Estes Park ARES had set up in the fire station’s emergency communications site.

Colorado Section Manager Jack Ciaccia, WMØG, said ham radio received kudos from the Gold Hill and Allenspark Fire Chiefs, who attributed lives saved directly to ARES efforts. “The ability to get, fast, accurate info to their residents as it was being disseminated was critical to their rescue and evacuation efforts,” Ciaccia said.

The flash flooding in Colorado has claimed at least eight lives, hundreds remain unaccounted for, untold numbers of homes and highways have been destroyed, and many residents still await evacuation, according to media accounts.

“Hams continue to staff evacuation shelters throughout the region and emergency operations centers (EOCs) for the state and multiple counties and municipalities,” Wareham said over the weekend. The National Guard has been mobilized to help with evacuations and rescue operations. Wareham said that hams not directly involved in the disaster response served as storm spotters for the National Weather Service, providing reports on rainfall, creek and river levels.


Boulder County Hams Jack Ciaccia, WMØG (Colorado Section Manager) and Allen Bishop, KØARK (Boulder County ARES EC) were shown in an NBC Nightly News Clip (now deleted).

Another Documentary filmed by The Weather Channel with host Jim Cantore entitled “Disaster in the Rockies” also showed Jack and Allen communicating with hams in isolated communities in Larimer and Boulder Counties during the flood.


Colorado ARES Teams to Mobilize for Flood Damage Assessment


As rainfall tapers, ARRL Colorado Section Emergency Coordinator RobertWareham, NØESQ, says the Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES) is mobilizing Amateur Radio operators from throughout the state to assist with damage assessment. Now in its fifth day, devastating flash flooding there has claimed at least a half-dozen lives. Hundred remain unaccounted for, untold numbers of homes have been destroyed, and more than 1000 residents are awaiting evacuation, according to media accounts.

“The [Colorado] Office of Emergency Management predicts that Amateur Radio operators will be needed next for damage assessment, as many local hams have been working 12 hours plus per day since the flooding started,” Wareham said in a post to the ARRL Colorado Section Facebook page. “Hams continue to staff evacuation shelters throughout the region and emergency operations centers (EOCs) for the state and multiple counties and municipalities.” The National Guard has been mobilized to help with evacuations and rescue operations.

Wareham said that hams not directly involved in the disaster response have been serving as storm spotters for the National Weather Service, providing reports on rainfall, creek and river levels. SKYWARN spotters have been asked to submit their rainfall totals to the Community Collaborative Rain, Hail & Snow Network (CoCoRaHS).

ARES Proud

Colorado ARRL Section Manager Jack Ciaccia, WMØG, reposted a comment from Randy Reynard, W0RDR, of the ARES team for Douglas and Elbert counties (ARESDEC), for which Reynard heads weather operations. “I was proud to be a member of ARESDEC today,” he said over the weekend after a callout to monitor flash-flooding conditions. The eight hams who responded “operated as a team, a well trained and coordinated team,” he said. “People knew what to do, where to go, how to do what was needed, and we provided the information that was needed when and where it was needed. We were instrumental in providing much needed observations to [the National Weather Service] and Douglas County [Office of Emergency Management].” Reynard said Douglas and Elbert counties were fortunate not to have received as much flood damage as other areas of the state.

Some five dozen ARES volunteers remain deployed in and around flood-stricken counties of Colorado, supporting communication for Red Cross shelters and state and local emergency operation centers. Ciaccia said late last week that with power cut off to affected communities and many cell telephone towers toppled by the flood waters, ham radio has been providing medical and health-and-welfare traffic between evacuation centers and the EOCs.

“Every EOC is being staffed by ARES people,” Ciaccia told ARRL. “Almost every evacuation center has an ARES communicator, doing either voice or packet communications between EOCs and shelters.”

On Saturday, September 14, US Congressman Cory Gardner (R-4) visited the state emergency operation center to express his appreciation to the Amateur Radio operators responding to the historic flooding disaster. Rep Gardner asked Wareham to extend his thanks to all ARES members staffing positions in the field as well.

Boulder County has deployed miniature drone aircraft carrying Amateur TV cameras to survey the affected, more remote regions, for now to spot individuals who may need to be rescued. Ciaccia said the drones — a fixed-wing aircraft and a hybrid gas/electric-powered helicopter — have been transmitting ATV video via UHF to the ground and simultaneously recording the video on a memory stick.

Wareham said Boulder County ARES hams beamed live color ATV video to emergency managers of the flight line at Boulder Airport as the National Guard airlifted supplies and rescued individuals.


Amateur Radio Provides Critical Communication in Colorado Flooding Response

[Updated Sep 14, 2220 UTC] More than five dozen Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES) volunteers have deployed in and around flood-stricken counties of Colorado, providing critical communication for Red Cross shelters and state and local emergency operation centers. Recent heavy rains have caused veritable mountainside tsunamis that have caused rivers and streams to overflow their banks, ravaged roads and property and displaced an undetermined number of residents. At least three people are known to have died. ARRL Colorado Section Manager Jack Ciaccia, WMØG, says that with power cut off to affected communities and many cell telephone towers along the Big Thompson River toppled by the flooding, ham radio is providing medical and health-and-welfare traffic between evacuation centers and the EOCs.

“Every EOC is being staffed by ARES people,” Ciaccia told ARRL. “Almost every evacuation center has an ARES communicator, doing either voice or packet communications between EOCs and shelters.”

The isolated towns of Estes Park, Lyons, and Jamestown were or still are relying solely on ham radio for contact with the outside. Jamestown has since been evacuated. “Everybody was huddled into the high school there,” Ciaccia told ARRL. He was in contact with the mayor there and trying to get the community needed resources as soon as possible. Hams in Estes Park have been working out of the EOC in the Town Hall, which is on high ground. “There’s no place to go. Everything’s flooded,” Ciaccia said. “The only ham in Lyons was working out of an evacuation center at the local elementary school.” He said the National Guard has been relocating some evacuees, as the shelter has become overcrowded.

corey gardner at SEOC

(L to R are Ron Monk, KCØVFN, Congressman Gardner and George Bartling, WA9TCD.)

On Saturday, September 14, US Congressman Cory Gardner (R-4) visited the state emergency operation center to express his appreciation to the Amateur Radio operators responding to the historic flooding disaster. Rep Gardner asked Colorado Section Emergency Coordinator Robert Wareham, NØESQ, to extend his thanks to all ARES members staffing positions in the field as well.

Boulder County has deployed miniature drone aircraft carrying Amateur TV cameras to survey the affected, more remote regions, for now to spot individuals who may need to be rescued. “We’re still in a search-and-rescue mode,” Ciaccia said, “not really in a damage-assessment mode.”

Ciaccia said the drones — a fixed-wing aircraft and a hybrid gas/electric-powered helicopter — have been transmitting ATV video via UHF to the ground and simultaneously recording the video on a memory stick. The helicopter can remain in the air for more than 5 hours at a clip, recording images for officials at the EOC to evaluate. Ciaccia said Boulder County Emergency Coordinator Al Bishop, KØARK, owns Reference Technology, the company providing the drones.

Eyes and Ears

Ciaccia said that during the past year the Boulder County ARES team created the Mountain Emergency Radio Network (MERN) on its own time and money and put up two repeaters — one at Allenspark and another in Gold Hill. “The intent was to start educating people in the mountain regions to become hams,” Ciaccia said. Some 65 individuals have gotten their licenses, and the team provided each with a radio. “Those radios and those people — they became the eyes and ears for their communities,” Ciaccia explained.

As power was lost, the only remaining means of communication were the two repeaters operating on propane-powered generators. “The system worked,” Ciaccia added, “and we were able to utilize it for emergency communication purposes.” Those communities have since been evacuated.

Threat Remains

News media accounts citing the state Office of Emergency Management say 19 Colorado counties remain under a high threat of flooding. These include Boulder, Arapahoe, Weld, Park, Jefferson, Larimer, Clear Creek, Adams, Douglas, Broomfield, Gilpin, Denver, Logan, Morgan, Washington, El Paso, Teller, Pueblo and Elbert.

State authorities are warning residents in the hard-hit counties to stay off the road. Interstate 25 from the Wyoming line to Denver has been closed, along with part of Interstate 70.

The Colorado Section Facebook page includes updates on the ARES activation.


Ghostbusters-like crew of amateur HAM radio operators help in emergencies

By Andy Vuong 
The Denver Post
POSTED:   09/13/2013 06:07:43 PM MDT2 COMMENTS|
In this June 22, 2013, file photo, Rick Kile tries to find an active frequency to connect with other radio operators around the world at the Loveland Fire Station during a Ham Radio Public Demonstration. (Liyana Haniff, Loveland Reporter-Herald)

When disaster strikes and traditional telecommunications services are curtailed, who do emergency responders call?

A Ghostbusters-like crew of amateur radio operators.

Better known as hams, these are hobbyists who spend their days toiling as divorce attorneys, software engineers or drone- helicopter designers.

During their free time, they serve as experts in old-school communications technology that rides on radio frequencies referred to as the amateur band.

On Friday afternoon, about 65 volunteer ham radio operators were stationed at emergency operations centers, or EOCs, and shelters along the Front Range. Some started helping just as the Colorado floods hit Thursday, and a couple hundred hams have been rotating shifts.

“From Colorado Springs all the way up to Fort Collins, we’ve had hams involved at each EOC and the state EOC,” said Jack Ciaccia, Colorado section manager for the American Radio Relay League, the national association of amateur radio operators. “We’ve looped them all together via ham radio, and we’ve linked all of the shelters that we had access to via ham radio. In some cases, like in Lyons, in Jamestown, in Estes Park, ham radio has been primarily the only communications in and out for a while.”

Ciaccia, who manned the Boulder County station Friday, said there are several thousand licensed hams in Colorado. About 700 are members of the Amateur Radio Emergency Service, which provides support during floods, fires and other disasters.

“We’ve been active literally since the forecast came out two days ago,” said Robert Wareham, section emergency coordinator for Colorado ARES. “The state and local governments couldn’t afford to have us on payroll, but when disaster strikes, they find us indispensable.”

More than 50 repeater systems are installed along the Front Range, atop mountain peaks and commercial towers, enabling communications among 5-watt handheld radios and other equipment.

“We can tie multiple repeaters together so we can cover a wide area,” Wareham said. “The real magic of amateur radio is we can put together things very quickly.”

If there are areas with insufficient coverage, Wareham said hams could get a portable repeater system up and running in as little as 30 minutes.

“During the High Park fire, several of our people worked with the Forest Service and assisted them in setting up their own repeaters out on various mountain peaks because we knew the area, and we also know how to set up the technology equipment,” he said.

The Mile High Chapter of the Red Cross sought assistance from ARES on Friday and lauded the group’s help.

“We are very fortunate … to have a representative from the Denver Amateur Radio Emergency Service here, volunteering his expertise and service 24/7,” said Elisa DiTrolio, a volunteer spokeswoman for the Red Cross in Denver. “He is monitoring traffic and shelters, and staying in regular contact with the state EOC.”


September 12, 2013 12:09 PM

Boulder County ARES (R1D3) has been activated from early on this morning for the floods in Boulder County and is monitoring the BCARES Repeater as well as the two MERN (Mountain Emergency Radio Network) Repeaters in the Boulder Mountain Communities with BCARES operators situated at both the EOC/OEM in Boulder and at the Allenspark Fire Station MERN Repeater location.

In addition, BCARES has been monitoring and relaying emergency related requests from Intermountain Social Media outlets to the OEM/EOC in Boulder as needed.


NEWS RELEASE September 12, 2013 18:30 MDT

COLORADO–Colorado ARES members are actively involved in the response to extreme weather in north central Colorado. Members from local ARES districts in Larimer, Boulder, Denver and Arapahoe Counties have been utilized at Emergency Operations Centers in their respective counties. As the rain continues and mandatory evacuation orders expand, the Red Cross is opening shelters in cities as far away as 30 miles from the flooding. These shelters are being manned by ARES members as well to provide health and safety traffic. ARES members in Jefferson and Douglas/Elbert Counties are providing weather spotting support functions. Field Operations have been hampered by flooded streets and impassible highways. Some ARES members we forced to shelter-in-place while serving as net controls or providing weather information.

Assistant Section Emergency Coordinator Emit Hurdelbrink, WØUAW, coordinated the Section Level response from the State Emergency Operations Center and provided status reports directly state emergency managers who were likewise coordinating the state response in support of local governments. The Colorado Office of Emergency Management is a Section Level served agency of Colorado ARES. Like the recent wild land fires, the flooding crosses multiple local districts, and at least three of the 9 state All Hazards Regions. Colorado ARES has developed mutual aid and response plans that allow for immediate coordination of large incidents while assuring local relationships are preserved. Following ICS principals the incident expands as needed. Local ECs regularly communicate their staffing needs and other conditions so that shortages can be anticipated and planning can be made through multiple operational periods.

Earlier this year the National Weather Service also became a Section Level served agency of Colorado ARES. ARES members act as storm spotters and net controls for the National Weather Service SKYWARN operations. Regular rain measurements and flooding conditions have been relayed to NWS since the start of the severe storm conditions. Once the rain stops, it is anticipated that ARES members will assist with damage assessment.

For More Information:

Robert Wareham, NØESQ
Section Emergency Coordinator
Colorado ARES



One Response to Colorado Floods 2013

  1. KimballTV says:

    Hey there, I stumbled upon your blog when I was looking up some info on the wildfire from last year in Colorado. Anyways, here’s a really good video from the wildfire last year that I would like to pass on to your readers.

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