Special Announcement: One Year Anniversary of the December 11th-12th 2008 Major Destructive Ice Storm
Hello to all…
It has been one year since the major destructive ice storm that had a major impact on the Northeast United States and portions of Southern New England and the NWS Taunton County Warning Area on December 11th-12th, 2008 with damaging ice in portions of Southern Maine, Central and Southern New Hampshire, Western, Central and interior Northeast Massachusetts, Northwest Connecticut and portions of New York and Vermont. It is important to remember the history of such a destructive storm. This special announcement has been written to recall the events of this serious storm over the region.
It became clear by December 9th and 10th of 2008 that the region had the potential to see a destructive ice storm over the interior region of New York and New England. In addition, Southeast Massachusetts, portions of Rhode Island and Connecticut were in the path for heavy rainfall with the potential of flooding and strong to damaging winds in these areas. Just prior to the major destructive ice storm/nor’easter event, a period of strong to damaging winds affected portions of Eastern New England with mild temperatures.
Winter Storm/Ice Storm Watches were issued on December 9th and 10th and these were upgraded to Winter Storm/Ice Storm Warnings. A Flood Watch and Wind Advisory/High Wind Warnings were also issued. The storm began to unfold on Thursday December 11th starting as plain rain and as the day wore on, the rain changed to freezing rain as colder air from Canada oozed southward and was wrapped into the major storm system. By early evening, locations began to get signifcant icing and reports gradually came in of ice storm damage starting as early as 7 PM that evening. By Midnight Friday December 12th, 2008, reports were rapidly increasing of significant icing damage in the NWS Taunton County Warning Area roughly from Amesbury to Haverhill to Hudson to Marlboro to Northboro and Worcester through Southwest Worcester County Massachusetts and northward through New Hampshire, Southern Maine and Southern Vermont particularly in the higher elevations. Power, Cable and phone outages mounted and it became clear this would be one of the biggest storms to affect the region in recent memory.
It is also noted that shortly after midnight, both local area Amateur Radio repeaters in Worcester County were off the air. Through the extraordinary efforts of the Worcester Emergency Communications Team (WECT), Amateur Operators activated the city of Worcester Emergency Operations Center (EOC) and with their Amateur Radio station at nearly a 1500 foot elevation, they were able to contact stations directly and maintain contact with the National Weather Service Forecast Office in Taunton until the repeaters were brough back on the air later on Friday Morning December 12th. If it were not for the efforts of the WECT, it is quite likely critical data of what the storm was doing and how severe the storm was would not have been known until hours later. Many Amateur Operators woken up by the storm to the sound of exploding electrical transformers and the snapping and knock down of large branches and trees from the icing got on the air to report what they were seeing, even in cases where some Amateur Operators, lost whole antenna arrays and suffered severe damage on their own property that they needed to go address. It is this type of effort that made the level of reporting so extraordinary and drew praise from many agencies.
At the height of the storm, over 500,000 people were without power in Massachusetts and New Hampshire. State of emergencies were declared in New Hampshire and Massachusetts where the ice storm had its most significant impact.
Amateur Radio SKYWARN Operations active throughout the storm was the first means of providing critical situational awareness and disaster intelligence information to the National Weather Service Taunton Massachusetts and Gray Maine forecast offices, state emergency management in New Hampshire, Maine and Massachusetts and to FEMA Region 1. The first reports of significant damange and power outages were relayed by Amateur Radio Operators. Information was given by radio and other technological mechanisms to state emergency management officials. This information was also given to local media outlets. NWS Taunton SKYWARN Amateur Radio Operations were active for 27 straight hours.
In addition to the major icing in the interior, SKYWARN operations had to focus on a fairly significant and widespread moderate river and stream flood event and a major urban flood event timed for the Friday Morning December 12th, 2008 rush hour. Winds gusted to near 60 MPH downing pockets of trees and power lines. Coastal flooding occurred along south coastal areas with vulnerable shore roads closed and some homes that were not elevated getting coastal storm surge flooding. Coastal Flood and Flood Warnings for urban areas and small streams were issued. River Flood Warnings also went into effect. This added an additional dynamic to storm reporting on top of the disaster situation that occurred with the interior New England ice storm.
Amateur Radio Operators staged an ARESMAT (Amateur Radio Emergency Services Mutual Aid Team) to Gardner Massachusetts with ARES in Eastern and Western Massachusetts active supporting local shelters in specific cities and towns. The ARESMAT that was staged to Gardner Massachusetts was the largest mutual aid team deployed since the September 11th, 2001 terrorist attacks in New York City. The North Shore ARES team affiliated with the North Shore Radio Association provided a significant amount of support to Gardner as did the South Shore ARES team. North Shore ARES Coordinators also served as the primary points of contact for staging people on the ARESMAT. Amateur Operators associated with RACES and Northern Middlesex County ARES supported local cities and towns severely affected by the ice storm in Chelmsford and Westford. Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) RACES (Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Services) were active at the State Emergency Operations Center and at Region 1 and Region 3/4 headquarters for almost a week due to the direct impacts of the ice storm.
It is important to know that some weather/storm situations or non-weather sitautions can evolve into a disaster without advanced warning or without the realization that a ‘run of the mill storm’ can become such a significant dusaster situation. The reporting of this data to NWS Forecast Offices and Emergency Management can be key in escalating the recovery response more rapidly when required and can help improve forecasts on severity of such storms or if conditions are not as severe as forecasted. This is why the SKYWARN program is such an important cog for both weather forecasting and Emergency Management.
There is a significant amount of data that remains online from this destructive ice storm. Links to that data appear below:
Ice Storm Reports:
Local Storm Report, Public Information Statement and Special Weather Statement
from NWS Taunton during that event:
This ice storm resulted in a federal disaster declaration with over 32 Million Dollars in federal aid granted in Massachusetts, 10 Million Dollars in Maine and 15 Million Dollars in New Hampshire. The federal disaster declaration was given in early January to various states and the links below describes the aid given and to what areas by state:
It is hoped that another storm of this magnitude does not affect the region. If one does, the importance of storm reporting during and shortly after the incident can not only help weather forecasts but can also support recovery efforts and expedite the arrival of resources to support an area adversely effected by dangerous severe weather. Thanks to all for your continued support of the SKYWARN Program, ARES/RACES/MARS/CERT and Emergency Management!
Robert Macedo (KD1CY)
ARES SKYWARN Coordinator
Eastern Massachusetts ARES Section Emergency Coordinator
Home Phone #: (508) 994-1875 (After 6 PM)
Home/Data #: (508) 997-4503 (After 6 PM)
Work Phone #: 508-346-2929 (8 AM-5 PM)
Email Address: firstname.lastname@example.org