Cleveland RAYNET Group

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Snow Incident

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Cleveland RAYNET Group was asked for assistance by North Yorkshire County Council's (NYCC) Emergency Planning Officer in December 1990.  Heavy snow was causing problems in many parts of the country.  In Whitby and the adjacent North York Moors, the government's Home Office was in the middle of updating the Highways Department's radio system and it was out of action.

We were asked to provide comms. to link the Whitby HQ to its snow-ploughs, snow-blowers and gritter lorries at the start of their Sunday 06:00 hrs shift.  About a dozen RAYNET operators would be needed.

The RAYNET callout system was implemented.  We had been given plenty of notice, so the Group Controller typed details of the incident onto the local Packet Data Mailbox to inform local members and adjacent RAYNET groups.  He received the following message from one member at 03:30 hrs which, in retrospect, sums it all up:-

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SP GB7NEM < G4WZG
ohmigod
R:901209/0325z 10403@GB7NEM._121.GBR.EU Middlesbrough

From : G4WZG @ GB7NEM._121.GBR.EU

I am up. Which just goes to show that insanity is still widespread.

/EX

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The Group Controller instructed available members to RV in Guisborough High Street (Westgate) at 04:30 hrs, so as to travel through the snow to Whitby in convoy.  It prompted the thought, "How do the snow-plough staff travel to work to reach their snow-ploughs?"

Fourteen RAYNET members met up in Guisborough.  A member driving a Land Rover was designated to lead the convoy.  Another member with a Land Rover was designated to trail the convoy.  We made the journey at an average speed of 20 mph and stopped at a car park above Whitby to allocate a relay point at Sil Howe, a high point on the moors.  An in-band VHF talk-through device (an ad hoc repeater) was to be established to allow us all to talk to each other.  We arrived at Whitby HQ in plenty of time.

After liaison with the Highways Department supervisor about the area to cover, RAYNET were allocated to various snow clearance vehicles.  Some chose to use low power hand portable radios.  Others opted for more power by using mobile radios.  The normal method of powering mobile rigs in another vehicle is by plugging into the cigarette lighter.  It is quick and easy.  We soon found out that the NYCC Highways Department vehicles don't have cigarette lighter sockets.

Fortunately (or not), the Group Controller had brought along huge lengths of thick cable and in-line fuses.  Using these, plus copious amounts of sealing wax, string and sticky tape, the mobile rigs were powered from the vehicle batteries.  When they were turned on, we discovered which of the vehicles had a 12 Volt battery and which had a 24 Volt battery.  The working radios had the expected 12 Volt battery.  The smoking ruins of radios had a 24 Volt battery.  Radios explode quicker than fuses burn.  We live and learn.

We operated for most of the day.  Another thing we learned is that snow-ploughs can quite easily get stuck in the snow.  That is when communications are useful.  When the snow-plough going to the rescue of a stuck snow-plough also gets stuck, communications are even more useful.  We were stood down at 16:00 hrs.

A report on the incident was later received via the Packet Data network from one Cleveland RAYNET member.  It has always been a source of amusement.  You can see it by clicking the hyperlink here.

Humberside RAYNET Group was also operating in the area to the south of us on snow clearance duties.

Whilst we were playing in the snow, Richmond (North Yorkshire) RAYNET Group were called out to assist North Yorkshire Police and Search & Rescue Teams operating in the Harrogate area who were looking for a farmer missing overnight.  The police had a few problems with telephones and radios in this area at the time.  The missing man was located in the snow around lunchtime on Sunday.

A member of Cleveland Search & Rescue Team known to Cleveland RAYNET Group went on the search in the Harrogate area and lost his SARDA (Search & Rescue) dog.  A flare had been set off to aid the landing of a helicopter and although the SARDA dog was very experienced, it ran off for some reason and wouldn't come back.  The CSRT member was a medic and faced the choice of staying with the casualty or trying to find his dog.

Police looked for the dog and appeals for sightings were made by local radio and newspapers over a few days.  Eventually, somebody saw a dog trying to beg food from a cafe and recognised that it matched the description put out by the police.  The tag on the dog's collar identified it as a search dog and the police were informed.  The dog's owner drove down to Harrogate and retrieved his dog.

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Page updated on 09 January 2017

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