DeLuz Flood 1993

The Fallbrook Repeater was established in 1989 by Art Rideout, WA6IPD to provide emergency communications should the need ever arise. Just four years later the need did indeed arise with massive flooding in the DeLuz area knocking out all electrical power, telephone, and other utilities. First to sound the alarm was DeLuz resident George Shippey, N6YMH who used the autopatch to make local contacts. When the extent of the disaster was learned Marv Druskoff, K2VIV set up communications at the fire department to handle the huge volume of traffic. Because of the hilly terrain in DeLuz cellphones were useless and the Fallbrook Repeater was the only means of communication for six days. Those using the repeater were: RACES, the local fire and sheriffs department’s, Red Cross, US Forestry Service and the Federal Emergency Management Agency. See QST March 1993.

QST March 1993

Conducted By James D. Cain, K1TN
Senior Editor

Hams Help Bail Out Southern California Town After Rains Cut Off Access, Communications

During the recent rains in California, the tiny community of DeLuz, north of Fallbrook and midway between San Diego and Los Angeles, lost all power, telephones and water, and all major roads were blocked by flooding. Only those with fore-wheel-drive vehicles, making there own roads as they went, were able to get in and out.

Many people left there DeLuz homes in the morning to go to work and found it impossible to return in the evening. Many were concerned about the spouses and children they had left behind, and about their homes.

The San Diego Union called DeLuz “An island of chaos,” where “every access road was demolished by flooding.” DeLuz lost dozens of roads and had no electricity or water for five days beginning January 15.

Fortunately, an Amateur Radio operator in DeLuz, George Shippey, N6YMH, activated his 2-meter station and began running emergency traffic via the Fallbrook repeater autopatch, the only 2-meter repeater that can be reached from DeLuz. This repeater belongs to Art Rideout, WA6IPD, 61, a selfemployed electrical engineer, who homebrewed the repeater after the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake “because I was concerned that in an emergency, the community wouldn’t have communications. In this area we could not reliably access any 2-meter repeaters. I also provided an autopatch, all free for local amateurs, ” Rideout said.

Soon, Marv Druskoff, K2VIV, took control from the Fallbrook end, and because of the large volume of communications, established his base of operations at the Fallbrook Fire Station.

The Union reported that “With DeLuz cut off from the rest of the world, the sole communication has come from George Shippey’s ham radio.”

On the hour, and sometimes on the half hour, communications were established with Shippey to confirm that loved ones were safe and that people on medication had adequate supplies. Where necessary, helicopters were directed in to provide necessary supplies. Other amateurs were involved with the emergency communications, but Druskoff continuously manned his station for 72 hours, handling communications originating from the Fallbrook Fire Department and the sheriff’s station.

“Since Sunday,” said the Union, “Shippey has manned the radio from morning until night, providing a crucial link between stranded residents and the outside world. “The 69-year-old retired salesman has braved washed-out roads and mudslides, checking on residents in need of drinkingwater, food or medicine. In many cases, he simply checked on folks whose friends and relatives had relayed messages via his radio,” the paper said.

“Because of Shippey and another ham, Marv Druskoff, residents in need of insulin received some, thanks to a sheriff’s helicopter,” the Unionsaid. “Another resident, requiring kidney dialysis treatment, was to be flown to a hospital because of information relayed between Shippey and Duskoff.”

Fallbrook Sheriff’s Sgt Derek Cook told the Oceanside Blade-Citizen that “Without [Shippey], we wouldn’t know anything about anything.”

North County Fire Protection District Capt Milt Davies gave his view of radio amateurs to the Blade Citizen: “Once again, the hams came through and saved the day. They’re the ones to rely on when all the copper wires and cell phones go down.”

Amateur Radio participation in the DeLuz rescue effort came to a close on Friday, January 22, according to Rideout, after telephone service was finally reestablished. Amateur Radio had been the main means of communications for eight days, most of that time the only medium of communications for the remote community.

Amateurs established communications for the Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Services (RACES), the local fire department. the sheriff’s office, Red Cross, the Forestry Service and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Helicopters were in short supply, according to Rideout. “Our next-door neighbor, the Marine base at Camp Pendleton, usually responds to local emergencies, but they experienced major flooding and most helicopters had been under water,” Rideout said.

Finally, on Friday, the Air National Guard came in with its helicopters and dropped water tanks, medical supplies and food.

At the height of the rescue effort, nine amateurs were flown into DeLuz to provide communications. One amateur, Ellen Utschig, N6UWW, who is active in RACES, established a base station at a DeLuz Forestry Station. She stayed for several days and operated her station 24 hours a day. She was finally evacuated with her radio equipment on Friday afternoon.

George Shippey summed up the amateurs’ spirit:
“The only thing I want to do is to make sure people are okay,” he told the Union.