HAMNET Report 9th October 2022

In interim reports from GDACS of statistics after Hurricane Ian finally dissipated on 2nd October, more than 100 fatalities were recorded, while a number of people were still missing. 1900 rescues had been carried out, half a million households were without power, and more than 25 Counties had clean water shortages.

People across Florida remained without access to drinking water, while 138 healthcare facilities were impacted. As of 2nd October, there were 3,607 persons displaced to 44 shelters in Florida. The water level of many rivers across Florida was still above the major flood stage.

Emergency responders dealing with the tragic aftermath of the hurricane may have suffered extra setbacks on Sunday (Oct. 2) as a major solar flare disrupted radio communications.

The solar flare, a powerful X1 (the mildest form of the strongest category of flares) erupted from the sun on Sunday at 19h53 UTC and peaked about 30 minutes later. Since solar flares travel at the speed of light, the burst of electromagnetic radiation caused an immediate radio blackout up to an hour long on the sun-facing side of the planet. The affected region included the whole of the U.S., according to the SpaceWeatherWatch. 

The radio blackout, classed by the U.S. National Oceanic as a strong R3 category, likely affected rescue workers using 25 MHz radios to communicate in areas where the rampage of Hurricane Ian knocked down cell phone networks.

Yesterday, Saturday the 8th, Greg G0DUB received another request from Carlos CO2JC to respect a large number of HF frequencies in the usual emergency slots.

Tropical Storm JULIA, had formed on Friday night, and was moving west across the southern Caribbean Sea at about 30 km/h. At 21:00 UTC its centre was located about 235 km north of Barranquilla (Colombia) and about 725 km east of Isla Providencia (Colombia). It had maximum sustained winds of 65 km/h and a minimum central pressure of 1002 hPa.

By Saturday its wind speeds had increased to 130km/h and about 600000 people were in its projected path.

According to the forecast track, the centre of Julia was expected to pass near or over the islands of San Andrés and Providencia on Saturday night and then make landfall, perhaps as a hurricane, on the Nicaraguan coast on Sunday morning. Later it will begin to weaken but it will affect Central America with rains and winds.

For this reason, Carlos decided, in communication with the emergency coordinators in the region, to ask radio amateurs to protect the emergency HF frequencies used by countries that are in the current or future path of this tropical cyclone. There are too many frequencies in all the affected countries to quote here, so just be mindful of hurricane season, and if you can hear any kind of traffic in the Emcomm passbands, please avoid them, and look elsewhere for bandwidth. Thank you.

Keith Lowes, ZS5WFD Reginal Director of HAMNET for KwaZulu Natal, sent me a report of the Isuzu Ironman 70.3 Durban Race. He says:

“I had a team of 4 Hamnet KZN members who assisted with communications for the event that took place on Sunday 02 October 2022. Race control was manned by Keith ZS5WFD based at Pirates Lifesaving Club in front of Suncoast Casino complex opposite the old Natal Command building. A total of 1069 competitors entered the race. The event was originally planned for Sunday 05 June 2022, but due to the widespread destruction caused by the flooding in Durban in April and the consequent damage to key parts of the course it had been postponed.  Durban beaches were in fact still closed up until Friday before the event due to high levels of pollution having being recorded. Although levels when tested were within acceptable limits, a number of swimmers withdrew after ingesting salt water and feeling sick.

“The event was categorized as ‘Low Risk’.

“The event consisted of a 1,9Km swim at uShaka Beach, two laps of the bike stage along the M4 Ruth First highway out to Umdloti, where Wayne ZS5WAY was positioned at Penalty Tent 1, then back to Durban where Justin ZS5KT was positioned at the turnaround point at Argyle Road (Sandile Thusi Rd) which gave a distance of 90.1Km. Deon ZS5DD was positioned at the transition point at Penalty Tent 2 in the parking lot of Suncoast Casino. Finally, there was a leisurely run of 2 laps along the promenade between New Beach and Blue Lagoon covering 21.1Km. Weather conditions were hot and humid resulting in a number of casualties being treated for heat exhaustion/dehydration.

“Communications were maintained on 145.550 Simplex and the 145.625 Highway Amateur Radio Club Repeater and I am pleased to report that there were no serious incidents requiring intervention.

“It felt really good to be out and about doing what we enjoy!!”

I’m sure it did, Keith. Knowing how much you enjoy communications exercises such as these, I guess you wish they had ironman contests many times a year! Thank you for the report.

Southgate Amateur Radio News has a nice story about radio amateur Doreen Bogdan-Martin KD2JTX, who has become the first woman to be elected as secretary-general of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU)

Ms Bogdan-Martin KD2JTX decisively beat her Russian rival Rashid Ismailov by 139 votes to 25. She will succeed Houlin Zhao, who has been in the role since 2014, when her term begins on 1 January 2023.

Bogdan-Martin is currently director of the ITU’s Telecommunication Development Bureau (BDT), responsible for creating policies, regulation, and providing training programs and financial strategies in developing countries.

When COVID-19 hit, she spearheaded a collaboration platform called REG4COVID for regulators and policymakers to share initiatives for keeping communities connected during the pandemic.

A qualified amateur radio operator, Bogdan-Martin has held leadership positions in global telecoms policy for over two decades.

On September 29th, Doreen KD2JTX tweeted:

“Immensely proud to be the first woman ever elected to the post of @ITU Secretary-General.
“We’ve finally smashed a 157-y.o. glass ceiling! – and I hope this result inspires women & girls everywhere to dream big & make those dreams a reality!”

Congratulations to KD2JTX on her appointment. I hope this means that amateur radio gets even more support in the ITU than it already enjoys.

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