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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 EastTexasMatters.com.

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

Biden speaks to Mexican president about reversing Trump's "draconian immigration policies"

Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador. Ismael Rosas/Eyepix Group/Barcroft Media via Getty Images

President Biden told his Mexican counterpart, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, on a phone call Friday that he plans to reverse former President Trump’s “draconian immigration policies.”

The big picture: The Biden administration has already started repealing several of Trump’s immigration policies, including ordering a 100-day freeze on deporting many unauthorized immigrants, halting work on the southern border wall, and reversing plans to exclude undocumented people from being included in the 2020 census.

Muslim families hope to reunite following Biden's travel ban repeal

Photo: Andrew Lichtenstein/Corbis via Getty Images

Muslim Americans across the U.S. are celebrating President Biden's day-1 reversal of former President Trump's travel ban that targeted several Muslim-majority countries.

The big picture: The repeal of what many critics called the "Muslim ban" renews hope for thousands of families separated by Trump's order.

Updated 3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

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  3. Politics: Biden unveils "wartime" COVID strategyBiden's COVID-19 bubble.
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