HAMNET Report 29th November 2020

Yet another tropical cyclone has to be reported, this one threatening the East coast of India, and called NIVAR. It struck the coastal provinces of Tamil Nadhu, Puducherry and Andra Pradesh, causing heavy rainfall and strong winds on Wednesday and Thursday. Rain was expected to continue on Friday and in to Saturday.

Other areas experiencing extremely heavy rain, and landslides, and causing casualties this week included Colombia, Vietnam, Sumatra and Kalimantan in Indonesia, Italy and North West England.

Meanwhile, the Natal Witness says that Council has declared Msunduzi a disaster area after the hailstorm earlier this month caused extensive damage to roads, electricity and water networks, as well as municipal buildings, including Pietermaritzburg’s historic town hall, whose roof has developed leaks. A trail of damage was left with services in suburbs cut off for several days in some parts.

Pictures circulated on social media of hailstones the size of cricket balls and the damage has been assessed at R2.8 billion!

Bridges, storm water drains and pavements were damaged, and sanitary reticulation interrupted. A long list of expected costs was published, and regrets were voiced that the damage was worse because of the aging infrastructure in the sub-council. A lot of the repairs to be done needed doing anyway. This storm had just made everything worse, and the urgency greater.

The state of disaster announced means that resources can be redirected to get the repairs rolling faster than might otherwise have happened.

Apart from the damage to fixed property, there must be a lot of vehicles in KZN dimpled like golf balls by the hail. The cost to owners for repairs is mind-boggling, and with the economy in the state it is, and job losses and unemployment running very high, a lot of these repairs are just not going to happen. Depressing indeed!

Greg, G0DUB, has confirmed the idea to have another Webex in December, and the 12th December has been chosen as the date. He is thus proposing that the virtual meeting takes place from 13h00 UTC until 15h00 UTC on that day.

He says he had hoped to have feedback from the exercises everyone had planned in October/November but these were beaten by COVID-19, so he will bring everyone up to date about how they are growing DMR usage in the UK, giving feedback from the IARU Region 1 conference, and so on.

He invites any involved participants to suggest other items they may wish to bring up at the meeting.

Brian Jacobs, ZS6YZ, tells me that HAMNET Gauteng held a training event on Saturday 14th November 2020 at the Arrowe Park Scout Centre on the East Rand.

The training event took place in the form of a fox hunt or Amateur Radio Direction Finding (ARDF) as it is formally known in the amateur world. Being able to locate transmitters whether it is a Fox that has been hidden, or an ELB which is an emergency locator beacon of a downed aircraft or a missing hiker, or a rogue interferer causing problems on the amateur frequencies, is a skill all amateurs should master as one never knows when you will need to use this skill.

Two transmitters were hidden within the grounds at Arrowe Park which were used to teach the basic techniques of radio location and then another two were hidden in Brakpan on the East Rand which required the searcher to be mobile and perform a search over a greater area.

The morning spent practising to locate the hidden transmitters was thoroughly enjoyed by both the new HAMNET members, who were taught how to do it, and the more experienced members who honed their skills again. This is certainly one training event that puts some FUN into the more serious work that HAMNET is always preparing itself for.

Thanks, Brian. The fact that this is an out-of-doors event means that social distancing and ventilation is easy to maintain. I hope there are more events like this during the summer.

Herald Mail Media reported last weekend that amateur radio operators helped race officials keep tabs on participants in the JFK 50 Mile race on 21st November.

Mike Spinnler, race director, said members of the Antietam Radio Association play a key role in the nation’s oldest ultramarathon. The radio operators’ work at the race started in an era before cell-phones, he said, and it’s still needed.

“There are so many dead spots on that course where cell-phones don’t work,” Spinnler said. “[Radio Amateurs] don’t have any dead spots. They’re our safety nets.”

M.E. “Butch” Eigenbrode, president of the Antietam Radio Association, said at least 30 volunteers were assigned to Saturday’s race, the 58th annual event. Several were stationed along the course at various spots,

This year, because of the COVID-19 pandemic and limits on crowds, the runners started in three waves, spaced 30 minutes apart. Eigenbrode is a race veteran, albeit as a radio operator. “I’ve done a lot of things” in those years, he said.

This year, his main role was coordinating the volunteers and assigning them to positions and duties. Following the COVID-19 rules about masking and social distancing provided an added complication, he said.

On race day, Eigenbrode planned to be out on the course, making sure people had what they needed and that things were working smoothly. Among other duties, the radio operators identified the male and female race leaders at various checkpoints along the course.

“We relay that back to the race officials,” Eigenbrode said.

They also let race officials know if an aid station needed more supplies, and they provided whatever other communications were needed. If a runner became exhausted, injured or did not make the cut-off times, radio association volunteers called for a radio-equipped van to take the person to the finish.

A volunteer swept at the back of the race, following the final runners, Eigenbrode said.

This of course sounds exactly like what South Africans do during the Comrades and Two Oceans Marathons. Good to know that the same kinds of events need the same kinds of assistance! Thank you to Herald Mail Media for excerpts from their report.

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