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MCARS In The News
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CERT Simulation

By Cindy West

Gadsden Times Staff Writer

GUNTERSVILLE - There I was, bruised and bleeding. I had heard the tornado warning over the radio, but I was sure I could beat the bad weather home. But as I was passing the Marshall County Courthouse in Guntersville, a gust of wind slapped me out of the traffic lane and into the curb.

My air bag deployed, but that didn't keep the left side of my face and my arm from getting bruised and scraped on the driver's side door. Groggy from the impact, I pushed the air bag aside and surveyed the destruction.

It only lasted a second, but that tornado had tossed people around like rag dolls - people who, only seconds before, had been in and out of the courthouse buying car tags and paying traffic tickets. I could see what looked like a teenage girl sprawled on a concrete picnic table. From the angle she landed, her back must be broken. Two other girls were nearby, one under a shrub and one with her legs tangled in the wrought-iron fence of the war memorial. After my head cleared I could see a group of people walking toward us, and I hoped they were coming to help.

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Break at Guntersville Dam gets real bad, real fast.

Guntersville Dam didn’t really break. But in a drill Thursday, TVA and emergency agencies around the county got a taste of what a break might be like.

As much as anything else, the drill showed just how fast things could go downhill. A whole lot of complications came up quickly. The scenario included:

  • Evacuating people in the flood zone below the dam.
  • Rescuing stranded boaters.
  • A series of barge accidents, including a fire and a spill of hazardous cargo.
  • Public water intakes being high and dry, with questions on what people all over the county would do for drinking water.
  • A series of marina fires, related to gasoline lines being pulled loose when floating docks sank due to the receding water level in the lake.
  • Questions over exactly who would be in charge of all the emergency operations needed.
  • Two serious highway accidents, due to people rushing to or from the flood zone, one at the Union Grove Road-Highway 231 intersection and another in Gun-tersville itself.
  • How a great number of casualties from the flood would be treated at local hospitals.
  • Notifying the Red Cross for assistance in setting up shelters for refugees from the flood.
  • A fishing tournament was also underway on the lake and they talked about how they would try to get word to the competitors that the lake was draining. Someone suggested using the drug unit’s helicopter.

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Flu Outbreak & Explosion - Both Were Just Drills

Advertizer Gleam

By Cindy West

Marshall County Emergency Management Agency, community emergency response teams and Guntersville fire and police departments tested their procedures during a disater drill.

The event started around 8:00 Tuesday at Guntersville High School, where interim EMA director Anita McBurnett coordinated the emergency operations center. The first scenario the various agencies envisioned was a flu pandemic. During such an outbreak, it's important for companies and emergency responders to know how to function if 30 to 40 percent of their workforce is out sick.

"If that many students are out of school sick, it also places a burden on familes," Ms. McBurnett said.

That exercise illuminated a lot of procedures and even some policies that need to be revised, she said. Policies are guidelines from state agencies, such as the Department of Education, about what would trigger closing all the schools, for instance.

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As Storm Clouds Rolled, Ham Radio Folks Busy

Advertizer Gleam

By Mark Bodem, MCARS Secretary-Treasurer

As storms tore through the area Friday afternoon and evening, volunteers were working to help protect all the citizens of Marshall County

For over 4 hours, 13 specially trained storm spotters followed with precision each storm threat as it crossed the county line.

This group of volunteers is the Marshall County Auxiliary Radio Service commonly known as MCARS. These elite ham radio operators were guided by the state-of-the-art radar system in the Marshall County EMS so that they could safely provide true ground facts of what weather threats existed as it was happening.

While the National Weather service and the local television station can use radar to determine the weather in the air, none can tell what is touching the ground.

Without the skilled reports via ham radio, a wall cloud would not have been spotted near Douglas as it entered the southern most part of the county. As it turned out, the siren system of the affected areas were instantly set off to alert everyone of the extreme threat.