More news from KX5SP in Puerto Rico

So… still working Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico. I would like to report serious progress in getting the island’s communications back up but I’d be lying. If I were wearing my other hat, the medical system has recovered nicely with 68 of the 69 hospitals on the island practically fully functioning if they can just keep the lights on. The emergency generators that run one medium size hospital are drinking 10,000 gallons of diesel every 50 hours. The tanks aren’t that big so keeping them fueled is a massive logistical problem.

But I digress, back to comms which you are interested in. Don’t believe any of the statistics coming out of the island concerning the cellular system or electric power grid. I think it was Will Rogers who said “there are 3 kinds of lies: white lies, damn lies, and statistics.” Well I read in one of the reports that 75% of customers now have cell service. What they are REALLY saying is 75% of the population may see a cell signal on their phone during a day. That does NOT mean they can talk to anybody.

For much of today in my area I had 4 bars of signal and 4G LTE… but can’t make or receive calls and no data. Why? Because many cell sites have been restored but they have no connection to the cellular system. All the fiber optic lines that connect cell sites in PR are ABOVE ground. So when the debris removal bulldozers come thru they sever the fiber optic lines. Happens every day and you don’t just splice fiber optics back together.

Then there’s the problem of power to the cell sites. Most sites, as emergency measures are still running on generators. These generators constantly need to be refueled and I kid you not, it is not unheard of for the fuel truck to show up and find that the cell site generator has been stolen! So some areas may actually have cell service today but won’t tonight.

Most of the public service communications (police, fire, and ambulance) are operational now but this isn’t a permanent fix. It’s equipment placed by FEMA and the military which does the job but can’t stay here forever. They need to rebuild a permanent island wide public service communications system after they finish the fight over who’s going to pay for it.

The indigenous ham radio community is back to some normalcy (if you can consider pieces of your roof missing and no grid electricity, normal). Most of the repeaters are back in service and in fact, courtesy of some military helicopter pilots and donation of a 2 meter repeater, there will shortly be a brand new 2 meter repeater on one of the highest spots on the island in the middle of the El Yunque rain forest, that should cover the whole island and all the way east to the U.S. Virgin Islands.

The Ponce 2 meter repeater that I can bring up, now sings with Spanish chit chat during the day instead of gringos using it to call in medevacs. Oscar KP4RF says it’s a good sign that the local hams have decompressed enough that they feel comfortable going back to routine rag chewing .

I’m hoping to be able to return to Alpine by the end of November and SLEEP – so I may not make the first 8:15am BB Emergency Net on Sunday 😉

Adios,

Steve KX5SP/KP4

Silent key, KM5VM

Barbara Nell Stone
March 17, 1929 – October 18, 2017
Barbara Stone, 88, passed away Wednesday, October 18, in College Station, where she had recently relocated after spending her retirement years in Alpine, Texas.
Barb was born in Cookeville, Tennessee, to Mary Elizabeth and Bryce Douglas Stone. She attended George Washington University where she earned a Bachelor of Science in Sociology and was a member of the women’s rifle team. She received her Master of Arts in Sociology from the University of Tennessee (the REAL UT).
As a child, Barb was active in the Girl Scouts and remained active through her adult years. She worked professionally for the National Office of the Girl Scouts of American in the training division. Summers were often spent either attending or running Girl Scout Camp. Hundreds of women and girls benefitted from her dedication, creativity, and love for Girl Scouting and, especially, for camping.
Barb left the Girl Scouts to pursue a Doctorate of Education at Boston College, where she studied under Malcolm Knowles. Upon completion, she served as a member of the faculty at James Madison University as Associate Professor of Sociology. In 1977, Barb joined the faculty of the College of Education at Texas A&M University as Associate Professor of Adult & Extension Education. During her years at Madison and A&M, Barb guided graduate students from all over the world in finding their own understanding of learning and ways to contribute to the learning of others. Many of her students remained in Barb’s life as her legacy and her “chosen family.” At Texas A&M, Barb was a founding senator of the Faculty Senate and served as department head; she retired from Texas A&M in 1991.
Barb is the recipient of numerous teaching awards including the Association of Former Students’ Distinguished Achievement Award in Teaching, College of Education, in 1983. She had over 65 published articles and presentations. Barb always listed her profession as “teacher.”
Barb spent her retirement years in Alpine, Texas, where she fully embraced life in the Big Bend. She became an EMT and volunteered with Terlingua Medics, where she served as their “oldest living medic.” She was a HAM radio operator, call number KM5VM, and regularly participated in local and international events. Barb volunteered at Big Bend State Ranch and taught an Elder Hostel course on medicinal plants of the desert. She was an amateur astronomer and helped at the McDonald Observatory’s Star Parties. She founded the “Double Diamond Gang” of volunteers for the Cowboy Poetry Gathering at Sul Ross State University. Barb received an abundance of recognition for her contributions to the communities in the Big Bend.
Barb traveled and camped throughout the US and Mexico in tents, vans, trailers, and eventually her motor homes, usually accompanied by a dog and a telescope.
Barb was predeceased by her father, Bryce Douglas Stone, her mother, Mary Elizabeth Stone Jarsen, and her brother, Bryce Douglas Stone, Jr. She is survived by countless friends and family and her pets, Quincy and Simon and Frankie and Knobby.
At Barb’s request, there will be no funeral. Her ashes will be spread in the Big Bend at a later date. Barb’s family and friends will plan a gathering to share pie and memories in her beloved Big Bend of Texas in the near future.
Those wishing to may make a donation in Barb’s memory to the Alpine Humane Society – Ezra Fund (alpinehumanesociety.org).

BBARC member reporting from Puerto Rico

BBARC member Steve Posner is working in Puerto Rico on the Tactical Radio Communications Task Force.  Here’s his report from the field:

After working hurricane duty in Florida doing my normal medical supervision stuff on my Incident Response Coordination Team, I was asked by Homeland Security to VOLUNTEER for a completely different mission in Puerto Rico on their Tactical Radio Communications Task Force. They paid my way to PR but I’m volunteering my time. If you remember for years in Alpine my callsign was KP4FF. I used to live here and know the lay of the land.

I’ve been setting up and operating HF digital stations running Pactor 3 thru the Winlink system to provide email links at critical points – with speeds of 3200 bps. Mostly on federal HF frequencies but sometimes on the ham bands if propagation is more favorable for that. Have worked closely with Oscar KP4RF, a brilliant researcher at Univ. of PR who also happens to be the ARRL section manager of Puerto Rico. He has tirelessly helped integrate my operations with the local ham population, despite his home being destroyed.

The FCC is physically present in the Joint Field Office in San Juan and I kid you not they are very helpful and accomodating. For example they waived some rules and if we need to we are allowed to operate SSB voice in the CW portion of the band. We do for one particular link every day.

After working in the San Juan area for a while, I was given  responsibility for the Ponce PR area, where I am now, on the south coast. Ponce is where I used to live in the early 1980s.

No electricity, no cell service, no internet, no street lights at night, no traffic lights – pretty dangerous driving at night, trying to steer around potholes the size of small Volkswagens. After a while I decided it was potentially life threatening so I no longer drive at night until traffic controls return.

On the southern half of the island practically all comms are non-existent. The only way to report a fire is for someone to physically walk into a fire station and say my house is on fire. Then when the fire apparatus drives out of the station there is no communication ability to call for additional units or be dispatched any where. Same for ambulances and police. Comm conditions are a little better in the northern part of the island (where San Juan is located). Before the storm public safety had an 800 MHz trunking system in the north that carried police, fire, and EMS on the same system. About 1/2 of that system is destroyed so some towns have coverage but many have no comms.

Most of the amateur repeaters went down. Quite a few in the north are operational again and linked, many on battery power with solar cells. Hams and governent pukes like me and public service, particularly fire departments have used the amateur radio repeaters and stations for critical comms.

At this time no repeaters are operational in the south where I am. I hear them working on the Ponce 2 mtr repeater so I expect it will be back in service in the next couple of days which will be most helpful in communicating with San Juan where all the resources are coming from.

It’s a real mess down here and the suffering is heart breaking.

73,
Steve KX5SP / NCS998
Ponce, Puerto Rico

New Hams!

Congratulations to Monte KG5OJT, Nancy KG5OJV and Denese KG5OJU, their call signs have arrived! Maria passed the Tech exam before our 7/12 meeting and should have her call sign soon.

Welcome all!

Event Update- Big Bend 50

Changes to the Big Bend 50 Ultra Run

This year there will not be a 50 MILE course. It is being replaced with a 50 KILOMETER course. This should shorten the race day and hopefully bring in more runners. As of the moment we have no new start and closing times but the Big Bend 50 web page says they will be coming soon. Race day will be Sunday, January 15, 2017. The new 50k course will follow the old course to about half way between station Bravo and Charlie, then turn north up Fresno Creek to Golf, then follow the old course back to Bravo and Warnock.

Visit www.bigbend50.com for more information.

Big Bend ARC Turns in Good Field Day Score

Big Bend Area, TEXAS – Members of the Big Bend Amateur Radio Club didn’t break their own personal best when it came to the club’s 2016 Field Day score but they did turn in a respectable score…and had a lot of fun doing it.

This year’s score of 9,674 was almost a thousand points less than last year when the club finished in seventh place in Class 2A.

The big difference was the lousy conditions on 6, 10 and 15 meters. This year we had zero points on 6. The CW ops had about the same on 15 meters and zero on 10. They ended up with 1369 Qs. The SSB Station had almost exactly the same score as last year with 1309. The GOTA station had 331 Qs last year but just 42 this year.

tower

All together, CW was down about 300 QSOs. The SSB station was able to make up for the lack of 6 meter Q’s but the result was about the same.

This year, Robin Ritche, KK5ROB, earned 40 GOTA Bonus Points but that was it. Last year we had 320 GOTA Bonus Points.

When it came to other Bonus Points they were the same with 1,400. There were two new categories, social media and a safety officer for which we got the points, but because the GOTA bonus was down the result was the same.

As usual, we had great food by Bob, WA5ROE, and Ike Roberts. Ritchie

Operators on the CW station included Dave, N5DO; Mike, W5POK; and visiting from Midland was Robert, W5AJ. On SSB we had Bill, KE5OG; Chuck, KA5PVB; Steve Cowell, KI5YG; Steve Ritchie, W5JSR; and Allen Moore, N5NYM.

Participating on the GOTA station, in addition to KK5ROB, were N5NYM on CW, and then Justin Coggins, Bryan Ritchie, Adrian Billings and Zane Billings.