Centralia ARES Responds To Major Flooding

Interstate 5 threatened by flood waters

The Amateur Radio Emergency Service team has, over the years, been involved with several major flood events in Lewis County.  Each one is different.  There have been some “100-year floods” and many, many lesser floods – all needing attention in one form or another from the Centralia Emergency Management.

The waters that visited our community January 6-8th, were different yet again.  While Centralia has three waterways that can and do flood – the Chehalis River, the Skookumchuck River and China Creek – it is usually the Chehalis River that causes the most problems.  This time it was the Skookumchuck that grew from a Western Washington snow event and a river of rain that visited the area.  Once the flooding began, it grew quickly into a very dangerous situation.  The Skookumchuck River is held in its riverbanks by levies on both sides of the river.  In normal years, this holds flood waters and safely moves them through the city.  The flood waters of 2022 were so large they threatened to burst the levies.

Thursday afternoon, January 6th, localized flooding caused the city to place sandbag stations out for business and homeowners.  By early evening, most of the downtown streets were flooding and the street department was trying to stay ahead by placing cones and barricades to keep motorists out of the deep water.  By 8pm, the Centralia emergency management had opened and staffed the Emergency Operations Center.  Late in the evening, well after dark, the threat of a levy break forced the city to issue voluntary evacuation notifications.  While most people stayed in their homes, the threat was very real.  By Friday morning, widespread flooding caused the closure of Interstate 5.  Interstate traffic came to a halt as any and all secondary roads around flooded areas were also closed.  This also forced many motorists into the smaller communities where they were confronted with closed streets and water over the roadways.  Centralia ARES worked from Thursday night to Friday evening in the EOC working both amateur radio and law enforcement comms.  Our communications vans were activated as well, using one for command and control for our ARES volunteers and the other for barricade duty and traffic control.  Thankfully, our wonderful ARES volunteers were there to help as well directing motorists around localized flood issues and monitoring river levels around the community.  By Friday afternoon, the waters began to recede and Interstate 5 was reopened.  Our ARES team was able to stand down.  It is never a question “if” flooding will occur each year.  Instead, it is a question of “how bad” will it be.  By late October, our ARES team is training for flood issues.  Large or small, our volunteers are there to assist our community.  Thanks to all the volunteers that answered the call.

Centralia ARES Helps With Evicence Search At ATM Bombing

ARES members search for evidence along the railroad tracks

On an unusually sunny morning yesterday, Sunday December 19th, Centralia Police Department requested the ARES team in a support mission to search for evidence at the scene of an ATM bombing in our community.  The team was alerted and thirteen members responded to the call.  Comm III was set up at a staging area across from the scene in a grocery store parking lot.  As team members responded they checked in with Paul KE7PCB, as primary net control.  Jim, K7CEX and Evelyn, KE7ACI served as backup net control from Jim’s home.  Once at the scene, everyone was given a situation report and waited for the assignment they knew would come.

Searching the bank parking lot for evidence

Before long, the team was put to work.  Washington State Patrol’s bomb squad had made the site safe and had recovered the evidence on scene that they needed.  Centralia ARES members, once gloved up, were assigned in teams of two or three along with a CPD detective prior to a complete search of the scene nearest to the bombing location.  Over the next hour or two, the teams slowly and methodically searched every inch of the scene – an estimated 10,000 sq. feet, bagging, under the direction of CPD, anything that even slightly appeared to be possible evidence.  Once all search teams had completed their searches, our ARES team was released and allowed to head home.  While a long day, it certainly was an interesting and educational process.

Somebody had to bring donuts and coffee! Thanks to Fullers Market Place for the life supporting goodies!

Team members on this detail included Don, AI7CE, Skip, K1HEK, Jim, K7CEX, Evelyn, KE7ACI, Paul, KE7PCB, Frank, KF7RSI, Kevin, KI7KKS, John, KI7YEF, Ken, K6YUQ, Bill, N7GWK, Chuck, W5KAV, Diane, W7DWD and Bob, KD7OWN.  Thanks to all the Centralia Amateur Radio Emergency Service team members who were able to participate.  You did a great job!

New Hams Take A Tour Of RFA Station #5 And ARES Equipment

Riverside Fire Authority Volunteer Station #5 had visitors this weekend.  Team member Jim Pace brought a great group of new hams, recently licensed through his Volunteer Examiner program, for a tour on Saturday afternoon.  We had the opportunity to show them the K7CEM repeater as well as the 100 ft. antenna tower outside the facility.  Jim took the time to explain how the repeater system works and answered questions.  A repeater can be a strange looking piece of equipment to new hams.

Most of the time, however, was spent in Comm II and around Comm IV, our communications trailer.  After demonstrating the on-board equipment and radios, we spent a considerable amount of time discussing the mission of the Centralia Amateur Radio Emergency Service team, and how we train.  As the area was under a flood watch this weekend, questions naturally turned to the Chehalis River, Skookumchuck River, and China Creek, our normal sources when flooding occurs.

Our next scheduled training period for Centralia ARES will occur only two days after the Station #5 tour and we will be visiting five different flood monitoring locations in Centralia.  The new hams were invited to join us on the training and learn more about how floods occur, local planning to mitigate stream flow, river gauges and how ARES members volunteer during local flooding.

After the Station #5 tour, the new hams also visited Chuck, W5KAV, for a tour of his wonderful ham shack and antenna farm.  Later, they stopped at Don’s house, AI7CE, to see his ham station under construction.  What a great way to introduce those new to the hobby to the equipment we all use.