HAMNET Report 17th March 2024

A happy St Patrick’s Day to all my listeners! And if you’re not Irish, that’s not a reason not to think of green things. I hope you have a great Sunday.

By Monday of this past week, GDACS was starting to make mention of Tropical Storm FILIPO, which had arisen in the Mozambique channel, was heading for the coast of Mozambique, and also threatening, Malawi, Zimbabwe, Eswatini and South Africa. Wind-speeds of 127 km/h were forecast, but at that stage, no large populations of locals were threatened. Wind-speed forecasts were cranked up as the week progressed to about 140 km/h, but no big threat to populations expected.

FILIPO made landfall in Mozambique over the Inhassoro City area, northern Ihambane Province in the very early morning  of 12 March, with maximum sustained winds up to 116 km/h. 

Mozambique’s National Institute for Disaster Management and Reduction (INGD) reported 2,780 people affected and seven injured in Vilankulo and Morrumbene Districts, Inhambane Province, 12 houses destroyed, another 510 houses, 14 health centres, and 6 schools affected. Preliminary reports indicated minor damages in Gaza province with ongoing assessment. Three accommodation centres were open and hosting 43 people.

FILIPO was expected to continue over the southern Indian Ocean, well off the coast of southern Mozambique and northern South Africa on 13-15th March, strengthening, with maximum sustained winds of 135 km/h (as a tropical cyclone).

Over the following 48 hours, heavy rainfall, strong winds and storm surge were forecast over Gaza and Maputo provinces in Mozambique, the whole of Eswatini and north-eastern South Africa.

By Friday, storm warnings were showing the wind speeds to be up to 158 km/h. but the Post-Tropical Depression as it was then called, was veering away from the Eastern coastline of South Africa, and heading into the south-eastern Indian Ocean.

We are aware of large amounts of rain along our eastern coastline, but not of any really major losses.

May I remind you that it is exactly 5 years to the week, since Cyclone IDAI devastated Mozambique, claiming 500 victims, displacing 120000, completely destroying 36000 houses, flooding hundreds of thousands of hectares of arable land, and placing 1.85 million people in need of humanitarian aid? The country has still not fully recovered from that catastrophe.

The Stellenbosch Flying Club is hosting an airshow this coming weekend, the 22nd and 23rd of March. Their Chairman is Stuart Burgess, ZR1SB, and he has invited radio amateurs in general, and HAMNET in particular, to assist with on-site communications during the show. A fairly large attendance is expected on Friday, and an even bigger attendance on Saturday, and Stuart’s club is hoping to deploy a number of monitors – that is, hams with handheld radios – among the crowds to report on security or medical issues to their central JOC.

HAMNET has taken up this challenge and has almost got its expected quota of volunteers – 8 on Friday and 10 on Saturday – to do the job. Michael ZS1MJT got the ball rolling, and the volunteer list is almost full.

The plan is to deploy our newly completed HAMNET comms trailer, kitted with all frequency monitoring and APRS and Internet facilities, next to the airshow JOC, so the foot-mobile operators can report to our trailer, who will in turn report to the JOC.

I hope to be able to squeeze a short report in to next week’s bulletin.

In an encouraging article posted in the Idaho clearwatertribune.com website, mention is made of the absence of communications for days after the devastating 2023 Hawaiian fire. Except for amateur radio, of course.

Clearwatertribune.com continues: “During the 2015 fires in North Central Idaho [they] lost 72 homes [and] 212 outbuildings. Throughout the fire if you tried to use your cell phone you learned that the cell towers were easily overwhelmed by the large traffic load. We find this to be true during most disasters. During the fire amateur radio operators worked with the local Emergency Operations Centre to provide backup communications and they were able to talk to their families and friends, and help keep each other informed of the fire activities without interruption.

“Amateur radio operators have been providing emergency communications in disasters such as floods, hurricanes, fires and earthquakes since 1910. Hams typically are first to get information out of the area when public service communications are down or overloaded.

“Amateur radio is far more than just voice. With an amateur license you can send emails without the internet. You can text someone without a cell-phone. You can send pictures or video.

“You can build a wi-fi mesh network that doesn’t require the internet and you can boost the wi-fi power up with your Amateur license. You can use amateur radio satellites to talk some very long distances with just a handheld radio.

“If you use GMRS, FRS, or MURS radios and you have antennas on your vehicle it’s time to move up to amateur radio. Remember Ham radio is great for family trips, camping, four wheeling and hunting.

“The Amateur Radio Service is the only group that can provide many types of personal and emergency communications with reliability. Nationally/ Worldwide and at any time.”

Thanks to clearwatertribune.com for the report.

Now all of this is old hat to you, if you are already an amateur radio operator, or HAMNET member, but, if you’re not, this might be a stimulus to you to log on to the SARL website at www.sarl.org.za, and zero in on ways of acquiring your operator’s licence, so that you can become involved in volunteer emergency communications.

And don’t forget to register for the SARL Convention to be held in Cape Town over the weekend of 19th to 21st April 2024. The event details are on the landing page of the SARL website. We look forward to seeing a large contingent of HAMNET members there, and thank the CTARC for hosting the event.

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