Valley Woman Desperately Works to Contact Brother in Hurricane-Devastated Town
SAN JUAN – A concerned Rio Grande Valley woman said she hasn't heard from her brother since Hurricane Maria struck Puerto Rico.
Teofilo Gomez lives in Quebradillas, Puerto Rico with his wife and two daughters. His sister, Dora Villa, of San Juan, has been monitoring news reports after s learning the town was devastated by the storm and flooding.
Villa describes Gomez as a proud veteran who she has always been close with.
"We used to work out in the fields for ten years, and as we were growing up and then he went to the Army. We kept in touch as much as we could. Now that he is in Puerto Rico, when he visits, he stays with me," she said.
Villa told us she spoke with Gomez over the phone on Monday of last week. She wanted to make sure he was prepared for Hurricane Maria.
"He said, 'Yes, we should get the storm but maybe Wednesday morning,’ he said. "I'm doing some shutters on the window,'" she added.
She hasn't spoken to him since. His town was flooded after Hurricane Maria made landfall. She used to stay in touch by phone but now her calls have gone unanswered.
"If I call him right now, all I want to hear is, 'Hello?' Just to make sure they're all OK," she said.
CHANNEL 5 NEWS went straight to the National Association for Amateur Radio to see if it can help Villa communicate with her brother.
The director of the West Gulf division of ARRL, David Woolweaver, said there is no current communication service available in Puerto Rico because there's no electricity. However, he said his group is sending amateur radio experts to Puerto Rico.
"Our service, amateur radio service is sending in 50 volunteers and 50 kits that will provide voice communication and eventually high speed-digital communications similar to email for the residents there," he explained.
He added the 50 volunteers leave from Atlanta on Thursday and will start working with residents of Puerto Rico as soon as they arrive. He said the shortwave radios are dependable and are operated by battery, so they won't be affected if there's a lack of power.
Woolweaver took time to demonstrate to Villa how one of these shortwave radios is used for communicating. He said he's learned new technology to allow these radios to contact someone in writing.
"You can send messages similar to email at a high speed, and that's what we were training on Saturday," he said.
Woolweaver added Villa can contact him personally for the guidance needed to get in contact with her brother using shortwave radios .
He adds his main concern is getting the people of Puerto Rico to the actual radios to contact their loved ones. He said the radio operators will handle this problem when they get on the ground and added another wave of amateur radio volunteers will head down to Puerto Rico next week.
The American Red Cross offers a web page for those checking on the safety of their loved ones in Puerto Rico.
The Red Cross has a website where someone in a region struck by disaster can list themselves as safe and well with one section. Another section allows others to search registrants who have updated their status.
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