HAMNET Report 24th May 2020

For more than a week now, GDACS has been watching a new cyclone, now called AMPHAN, that has been moving North up the Bay of Bengal, aimed at the border between India and Bangladesh. It finally hit the coast of India and Bangladesh on 20th May, with sustained winds in the 220 KPH range, and flooding the coastline, displacing 3 million people. 77 deaths in India, and 25 in Bangladesh, have been reported, and community shelters are full. Significant damage has been reported in thatched houses, standing crops, horticulture, fisheries, power, and telecommunication facilities in cyclone-affected areas. Most areas remained without electricity and a communication network and blocked roads, limiting a rapid response. Light to moderate rain with isolated thunderstorms, and strong winds are still forecast across north-eastern India, eastern, northern, and north-eastern Bangladesh.

Meanwhile, floods have been reported in Indonesia this week, as well as Thailand, Sri Lanka, and also in Algeria, Somalia, Ecuador and Guatemala, and flood warnings are in place for Finland and European Georgia.

So there is a fair amount of water about. It is a pity it is not more uniformly distributed.

The east coast of America has also been watching Tropical Cyclone ARTHUR, moving north-east up the coast there, about 190 km off the coast, and with wind-speeds of about 100 KPH. It is unlikely to cause much damage.

Meanwhile, The New Indian Express reports in preparation for the onslaught of another monsoon, radio amateurs in Kerala are setting up stations at major dam sites to ensure communications are maintained.

The newspaper says:

As Kerala prepares for the onslaught of another monsoon, ham radio operators are setting up stations at major dam sites to negate communication breakdowns in an emergency. Idukki, Mullaperiyar, Edamalayar and Kallarkutty are lined up to get ham radio channels. Idukki Ham Radio Emergency Communication Society secretary Manoj T R, who coordinates operations in the district, told TNIE that ham stations will be set up at major dam sites by next week.

“As the meteorological department predicts heavy rains, we are going to set up ham stations at major dams. The communication channels between dams were broken during the 2018 deluge. Considering that, dams like Kallarkutty, Mullaperiyar, Idukki and Edamalayar will have ham stations soon. We are awaiting the nod from the district collector and the KSEB chairman,” he said. Three other stations will be set up at the Karimanal power house, Vallakkadavu and Uppukandam along the path of the Periyar. In emergency situations, ham radio stations play a crucial role.

During the devastating floods in 2018, the lack of such a communication facility had foiled attempts to reinstate the operation of dams which were breached. “We are like police officers,” said Subramanian N Shastry VU2NSL, director, Institute of Amateur Radio in Kerala. “Similar to their march-pasts, we have daily roll drills. As a warming-up process, all our stations go through the drills between 7am and 8am.” Currently, the operators are pushing themselves to the next level to ensure Covid precautions remain in place.

If you live in an area where weather is commonly very dramatic, such as the US, you need this service. Skywarn is a nationwide network of between 350,000 and 400,000 volunteer storm spotters that are trained by the National Weather Service to report threatening weather when they observe it.

The Skywarn program is over 50 years old, and even with the latest technologies such as Doppler radar, satellites and high speed computers, the National Weather Service still relies heavily on ground truth reports. Some of these reports include snowfall measurements or confirmation of a tornado on the ground, hail size measurement or to confirm heavy rainfall or flooding.

Volunteers include members of law enforcement and emergency management, first responders, healthcare personnel, and any private citizen that just wants to help their community. Classes are offered periodically throughout the year, though are generally focused on the spring and summer. Topics covered include thunderstorm development and storm structure, tornadoes, different types of flooding, measuring snow, measuring hail, how and what to report, good and bad reports and basic severe weather safety and preparedness. All classes last about two hours and are free of charge.

Amateur radio is also part of Skywarn, though you do not have to be a HAM radio operator or have a HAM license to become a spotter.

The reports that spotters provide the National Weather Service are extremely valuable and can be lifesaving. While Eastern Oregon does not get the same type of severe weather as a place like Oklahoma, and you most likely would not be observing a large tornado or giant hail, there is still a need for spotters in that area. Radar coverage is affected by rugged terrain and a timely spotter report can be extremely beneficial in helping National Weather Service meteorologists with the issuance of warnings, and getting the word out to neighbouring communities. Spotter reports of flooding are also very important, as flooding can be very quick to occur in narrow canyons and people may be hiking or camping nearby.

Thanks to the Wallowa County Chieftain for this summary of Skywarn functions.

Now, a short summary of this week’s developments on the Coronavirus field. I’ve got lots of good news you may or may not have heard about. We will overlook the bad news of more cases and more deaths everywhere, because one can’t be full of doom and gloom all the time. Studies and reports issued this week tell us:

  • Vaccines are coming along nicely. One in America generated as good immunity in the volunteers who were given it, as people who had recovered from the sickness showed. One in the UK is very close to going to clinical trials. There are about 80 other vaccines being investigated worldwide.
  • Immunity after the illness looks very strong, and will last at least a few years. If you’re recovering, you won’t get it again.
  • The positive tests that showed up in people who had already recovered from the disease, turned out to be false positives. Even though they were better, these people’s respiratory tracts were still shedding bits of dead virus. These people are definitely not having the sickness again, and are definitely not infectious.
  • Children definitely have a much lesser chance of catching Covid 19.
  • Vitamin D3 deficiency will definitely make your illness worse if you catch Covid 19. Now that our illness statistics are rising fast, it would be very clever of you, no matter how much sun you get, or how isolated you are from the public, to take 50 micrograms (or 2000 international units) of Vitamin D3 a day, best with something fatty or oily to aid its absorption.

Right, I’ll take my medical hat off and wish you a safe week ahead!

This is Dave Reece ZS1DFR reporting for HAMNET in South Africa.