Jeff Roberson / AP

Amateur radio operators, or ham radio operators, have stepped up after electricity and cell towers in Hurricane Harvey's path shut off.

What they're doing: These radio enthusiasts have been using their hobby and expertise to help emergency responders, hospitals, and shelters communicate by sending important data about barometric pressure, damages, wind speed, and wind direction to help response efforts.

"The saying for Ham radio is that when all else fails you have to rely on amateur radio," — John Newman, Ham Radio Operator, told

Why it matters: 320, or 4%, of the 7,804 cell sites in the region are out of service, the WSJ reports. And although most cell towers have backup batteries, they only last about 8 hours, and if they're flooded or their equipment is blown away, they're toast.

Since Katrina, when these radio enthusiasts also hopped into action, they've received some government funding to help bolster the network. Now there are more amateur radio operators registered in the country than at any other point in history, according to the National Association for Amateur Radio.

On the government side, FEMA does have an app to push information about disaster preparedness, and FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said the FCC is working to protect communications networks, monitoring outages, working with the Department of Homeland Security and state and local partners, and has activated the Disaster Information Reporting System.

  • Similarly, open data sources have been key for residents watching flood levels. For instance, one open data source from Harris County has been providing updates on the area's bayou system, which is equipped with sensors to report rising waters.

Go deeper

U.S., Canada and U.K. accuse Russia of trying to steal coronavirus vaccine research

Russian President Vladimir Putin. Photo: Alexei Druzhinin\TASS via Getty Images

Hackers associated with Russian intelligence services are trying to steal information from researchers involved in coronavirus vaccine development, according to a joint advisory by U.K., U.S. and Canadian authorities published Thursday.

The big picture: This isn't the first time a foreign adversary has been accused of attempting to steal COVID-19-related research. U.S. officials in May announced an uptick in Chinese-government affiliated hackers targeting medical research and other facilities in the U.S. for data on a potential cure or effective treatments to combat the virus.

M&A activity falls despite early coronavirus fears

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

In April, several prominent Democrats proposed a moratorium on large mergers and acquisitions. Their argument was that the pandemic would embolden the strong to pounce on the weak, thus reducing competition.

Fast forward: The moratorium never materialized. Nor did the M&A feeding frenzy.

More than 32 million Americans are receiving unemployment benefits

Photo: Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

More than 32 million Americans are receiving some form of unemployment benefits, according to data released by the Labor Department on Thursday.

Why it matters: Tens of millions of jobless Americans will soon have a smaller cash cushion — as coronavirus cases surge and certain parts of the country re-enter pandemic lockdowns — barring an extension of the more generous unemployment benefits that are set to expire at the end of the month.