Jack Snyder, president of the Van Wert Amateur Radio Club was still new to radio when the “Blizzard of 78” struck the area. He joined up with amateur (ham) radio in 1977 and has steadily worked with Rick McCoy (EMA), police departments, firemen and other emergency personnel since that time.

This past week, he took his usual post in a quiet corner two rooms down from the fair office and county agriculture department, indicating his availability for any emergency that might occur at the fair or in the surrounding area. He is often one of the first to inform McCoy if a sudden emergency arises in the county.

“Amateur radio, also known as ham radio, is the use of the radio frequency spectrum for purposes of non-commercial exchange of messages, wireless experimentation, self-training, private recreation, radiosport, contesting, and emergency communications,” said Snyder.

“In ham radio you are not allowed to accept money for your service. It is all on a volunteer basis,” continued Snyder. “What you do is allowed and deeply appreciated.”

Snyder also volunteers storm spotting to McCoy in the case of severe weather watches or tornado watches. He saw the first indications of the monster 2022 tornado just outside of Willshire.

“I saw a funnel just outside of Willshire but it took off so fast that I couldn’t keep up with it,” said Snyder.

That funnel was the beginning of a series of funnels that quickly united with other funnels to form a damaging storm.

“We live in an area where a weather spotter can become a storm chaser,” emphasized Snyder. “Spotting in this county is often a joint effort of citizen spotters, EMA, ham spotters, police, fire departments and other emergency services.”

Those involved in such services, said Snyder, receive thorough training in recognizing certain cloud patterns, reporting hail and other storm characteristics where we are located.

“In the case of the Blizzard of ’78, I was just a novice,” said Snyder. “I was with my radio in a special shelter at the YWCA. We coordinated grocery drops and National Guard helicopter drops. In our traffic we were discussing a truck that was supposed to arrive with supplies. No one knew where it was.

“As soon as someone picked up our discussion, they contacted us and told us where [the truck] was. It was stuck in a snow drift in a certain part of town,” said Snyder.

Snyder’s location at the fair is beside the EMA location so they can assist each other in any monitoring or communication of services on the fairgrounds that is necessary.

“We do all that we can to help services and emergency needs in the county,” said Snyder.

Snyder referred to a large race the Ham network was monitoring when one of the participants became ill and collapsed. He said a Ham operator witnessed the incident and immediately called an ambulance and gave the location so the individual could be rescued.

He noted that there are statewide and local networks that are continually in operation to pass messages quickly in emergency situations when needed.

Snyder said that he originally became involved because he enjoyed electronics. As soon as he joined, he immediately got caught up in the friendships and the services that were being provided.

“Ham operators are a friendly group of people,” said Snyder. “We meet twice a month. We are all good friends. Part of those rewarding friendships is sharing information that we have picked up along the way to help each other out.”