On Sunday, April 10 one of the largest one day tornado outbreaks hit the State of Wisconsin. 14 tornados where recorded, including an EF-3 twister that hit the city of Merrill, WI. Amateur radio operators from Marathon and Lincoln counties where pressed into action that day as SKYWARN severe weather spotters and to provide emergency communications in the city of Merrill until normal communication channels could be restored.
Fortunately injuries where minor and there where no fatalities associated with the event. But damage was widespread as the tornado hit both a residential and industrial area. One factory was to have a shift of 40 running that evening, but fortunately only a few people where in the building.
Good Samaritan Hospital in Merrill was expecting a mass casualty incident and requested a team of amateur radio operators to set up a communication link between the hospital and the Lincoln County dispatch. Three amateurs, myself included went to hospital and set up a station in the family waiting room adjacent to the emergency room. We deployed a KB9VBR 2 meter J-Pole antenna and Yaesu dual band mobile radio to establish communication. The 2 meter J-Pole, an 8 foot painters pole, hose clamps, and 50 feet of coax are part of my emcomm go kit. Strapping the antenna to a sign outside the emergency room was all we needed to do to establish a communications.
Although the sheriffs department was only a couple of miles away, the antenna provided solid coverage for the duration of the event.
Injuries due the tornado where minor and we where able to stand down after a couple of hours. The hospital and county where grateful for the emergency communication service and the amateur radio community learned some valuable lessons while working in an actual emcomm scenario.