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September 29, 2005

New book covers Amateur Radio response to Flood

Devastation on the Delaware: Stories and Images of the Deadly Flood of 1955, the first comprehensive documentary of the destruction wrought by the remnants of Hurricane Diane in the Delaware Valley, contains several accounts of rescue and recovery efforts aided by dedicated amateur radio operators during the aftermath of the disastrous weather event.

Though it happened fifty years ago, the event was an eerie precursor of current disaster scenarios surrounding Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, where disaster mitigation and recovery are concerned. Taking place in the era whose emergency response was dictated by the realities of the Cold War and a quasi-military Civil Defense structure left over from World War II, the 1955 flood wreaked havoc over the entire eastern seaboard. Massive property destruction and loss of life (up to 200 people were killed) occurred from the Carolinas north to the Mid-Atlantic and New England areas. And yet, for all its under-funded lack of structure, the net of public and private first responders, including ARES/RACES groups, performed with nothing less than astounding effectiveness.

Both during and after the storm, private “hams” were already mobilizing, some traveling from states away to help the Delaware Valley locate its missing, bring out its dead and finally, to get back on its feet. It’s a particularly nostalgic look at how amateur operators responded in a time of rapid technological development in mobile communications technology. Everything from truckloads of bulky, transistor tube-based home setups to the beloved “Gooney Boxes” played a role in keeping the recovery effort moving from Port Jervis, New York to Trenton, New Jersey. Such operators played a particularly important role in the hard-hit areas of Pennsylvania, including the Stroudsburgs near Delaware Water Gap, the Easton-Phillipsburg area, and the badly inundated summer colonies in northern Bucks and Northampton counties.

Hams will enjoy the accounts of operators doing what it took to make a difference in the devastated area: lugging their bulky equipment across dangerously high water streams still running swift before the flood even receded to get to isolated areas; setting up relay stations in jail cells; and participating in a regional net that worked in concert with Tobyhanna Signal Depot’s emergency MARS station to aid in search-and rescue deployment of aviation assets, troops and emergency supplies.

The book is a 6″ x 9″ softcover of 456 pages, with more than 100 historical photos and a dozen maps and diagrams. It retails for $19.95 and is due in the warehouse of the publisher, Word Forge Books, the first week of October. It should be available through major booksellers soon thereafter, and is already available for pre-order online at Devastation on the Delaware is written in narrative nonfiction style, a historically factual account that reads like a novel. It arrives just in time to be a thoughtful gift for the amateur radio enthusiast in your life.

CONTACT: Mary Shafer
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BE ONE OF THE FIRST TO GET YOUR COPY! Pre-order Devastation on the Delaware, the first comprehensive documentary book of the deadly flood of August, 1955, available in October.