HAMNET Report 25th September 2022

Tropical Cyclone Fiona, which entered the Caribbean this week, and has exerted its might on the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, the Turks and Caicos Islands, and then Bermuda, has turned out to be far more fierce than originally anticipated. Wind speeds of up to 220 km/h have been experienced, and by Wednesday, it had strengthened to a category 3 hurricane, with about 2 million people in the path of winds of at least 120km/h. Very heavy rainfall, and storm surges were being experienced. Over 2000 people were still in evacuation centres.

In Puerto Rico, 8 people died, and 1300 were sheltered, while there were 2 deaths in Dominican Republic, 13760 displacements and over 1000 in shelters. Guadalupe experienced widespread damage to infrastructure.

In extracts from the ARRL Letter of Thursday, we hear that the National Hurricane Centre (NHC), the Hurricane Watch Net (HWN), the Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) Hurricane Net, and the Salvation Army Team Emergency Radio Network (SATERN) all have been engaged in tracking Hurricane Fiona.

Amateur radio operators have been reporting weather conditions since Monday, September 19, 2022, and have received positive feedback on their assistance. The VoIP Hurricane Net was active for 14 continuous hours on Sunday, September 18, for Hurricane Fiona, as it pummelled the southern and southwestern portions of Puerto Rico with catastrophic rainfall and flooding with hurricane-force conditions.

In the ARRL Puerto Rico Section, Public Information Coordinator (PIC) Angel L. Santana-Diaz, WP3GW, who lives in Trujillo Alto, reported a widespread blackout as the hurricane made landfall on the island. Still, he explained, there were ham radio repeaters that remained on the air with amateurs sharing reports of damage, including downed trees and power poles, and roofs ripped from homes.

In advance of the hurricane, the Radio Society of Bermuda activated their Emergency Measures Organization (EMO) on Wednesday, September 21, at 1:43 PM ET and plans to have 14 active amateurs monitoring the hurricane network. Plans are to use local repeaters, unless there’s a power loss, then they’ll switch to simplex. They’re currently monitoring 14.283 MHz and will continue to monitor that frequency.

Thanks to the ARRL for those notes.

After Bermuda, the hurricane was forecast to head north off the coast of the U.S., and strike Nova Scotia yesterday afternoon. I can’t remember having heard of a Caribbean hurricane making it to Canada before.

There is also an early alert for Tropical Cyclone NORU, travelling due west in the China Sea, and threatening, in order, Philippines, China, Vietnam, Laos and Thailand, with winds of 120km/h or higher threatening a population of at least two and a quarter million.

The KwaZulu-Natal Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs has said that disaster management teams remained on high alert following a warning of disruptive snow in the province this past week.

MEC Sihle Zikalala said disaster management teams continued to monitor the inclement weather conditions affecting large parts of KZN. He said that on Tuesday morning, the South African Weather Service issued a weather warning for disruptive snow in areas under the Harry Gwala and uThukela districts.

The snow was expected to lead to icy roads which could lead to traffic disruptions and closure of local routes.

“Residents in the affected areas are urged to continue to monitor the weather conditions and not embark on any unnecessary trips as they risk entrapment should conditions deteriorate,” Zikalala said.

He said that disaster management teams would continue to monitor routes with plans in place to mobilise equipment to clear roads that were blocked by the snow, should the need arise. High ground in the Eastern Cape, Lesotho and the Drakensberg were decked with a blanket of white.

A couple of times each year, the City of Cape Town Disaster Risk Management agency runs a Koeberg Nuclear Accident Exercise, and this week on Thursday, such an event took place.

Any and every agency you can think of, which might become responsible to all living things in the Western Cape, if Koeberg were to threaten to melt down, was involved. A huge team of these people gathered at Goodwood Disaster Risk Management Centre, and a scenario of leakage of steam and loss of steam pressure in the three phases of energy capture from nuclear fission to turbine power generation was played out. The action was concertinaed into a morning, although such an accident would probably have taken two or three days to develop, and all the agencies were given a chance to apply their prepared relevant strategies.

Danie ZS1OSS and I attended as HAMNET volunteers, and Danie has written a very elegant report of the workings of the exercise. It is quite long, but too good to hack to pieces for this report, so I will post it separately in its entirety to the usual HAMNET internet sites for you to read.

Included will be a picture of HAMNET’s radio room at Goodwood Disaster Risk Management Centre, sponsored by the city of Cape Town, and with call sign ZS1DCC. (We have a smaller and less well-equipped radio room at the Provincial Emergency Management Centre at Tygerberg Hospital, with call sign ZS1DZ.)

Thanks very much for the report, Danie.

Tomorrow (Monday) night, an hour or so after midnight will see NASA’s special suicide spacecraft DART crash into the little moon called Dimorphos, of a binary asteroid, called Didymos.

NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART), the world’s first mission to test technology for defending Earth against potential asteroid or comet hazards, will impact its target asteroid—which poses no threat to Earth—at 1:14 a.m. CAT on Tuesday, Sept. 27.

DART’s target is the binary near-Earth asteroid Didymos and its moonlet, Dimorphos. Launched in November 2021, the mission will see if intentionally crashing a spacecraft into an asteroid is an effective way to change its course, should an Earth-threatening asteroid be discovered in the future. This test will also show that a spacecraft can autonomously navigate to a target asteroid and intentionally collide with it in a way that can be measured using telescopes on Earth.

The plan is to watch the little moon critically with several telescopes worldwide, with a view to deriving its orbit, to see if the impact made any difference. It will be amazing if it does, won’t it?!

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