HAMNET Report 15th November 2020

HAMNET in the Western Cape lost a long-standing member last week, when Henk Toxopeus ZS1ACD became a silent key (SK). We were notified by his wife Margareta, ZS1TOX that Henk has been in poor health for some time, and finally slipped away on Friday the 6th of November.

Henk and Margareta were keen yachts-people, and had sailed the seas for many years before coming back to live in the Tableview area. Henk had not been active in HAMNET circles since before the Coronavirus pandemic started to take control of our lives.

Our sincere condolences to Margareta, a voice often heard reading the SARL Afrikaans News bulletin on local repeaters for the Boland Amateur Radio Klub (BARK).

I didn’t think I’d be telling you about the third Typhoon to strike the Philippines and go on to Vietnam in as many weeks, but now we have Tropical Cyclone VAMCO-20, which was expected to graze Catanduanes Island – which was devastated by Typhoon GONI less than two weeks ago – before making landfall on the most populous island of Luzon later on Wednesday or early on Thursday.

Destructive winds and torrential rain were expected in parts of central and southern Luzon, the state weather forecaster said.

About 50,000 people living in the typhoon’s path were to be ordered to leave their homes, said regional Civil Defence spokesman Gremil Alexis Naz.

The Bicol region, which VAMCO will cross as it heads towards Manila, is still reeling from deadly typhoons MOLAVE and GONI, which killed dozens of people and left thousands of families homeless.

Swathes of the region remain without power and with only limited or no telecommunication services after GONI – the most powerful typhoon this year – toppled power lines, destroyed houses and flooded roads.

Pre-emptive evacuations of around 400,000 people were credited with saving many lives.

Evacuation efforts on Catanduanes have been complicated this time, however, after GONI destroyed some of its emergency shelters.

VAMCO’s winds were expected to reach a peak intensity of 130-155km/h before it made landfall, the weather forecaster said. The typhoon was expected to dump heavy rain in Manila and nearby provinces as it swept across the already-sodden country.

The weather service also warned of flooding, landslides and storm surges several metres high along parts of the east coast and in the capital.

Friday’s news reports say 1.6 million people are affected by the storm, and at least 42 deaths have been reported. Windspeeds on Luzon were measured at 150 km/h, while storm surges reached the height of a double storey building.

Since yesterday (Saturday) it has been threatening the Vietnamese coast, and should make landfall today. Hopefully it will have dissipated a bit after its passage across the Philippines.

I also didn’t expect still to be talking about Hurricane ETA-20, which finally blew itself out after affecting Nicaragua, Honduras, Cuba, Florida, and finally dumping large quantities of rain on the Carolina States. It has proved to be the strongest hurricane since a Cuban one in 1932. It finally dissipated on Friday the 13th, after giving the national Hurricane Warning Centre a hard time for longer than a week.

Hot on its heels, a Tropical depression started forming in the central Caribbean Sea on Friday, and is forecast to turn into Hurricane IOTA before approaching Central America early this coming week.

Once the storm nears Central America, it “has the potential to produce 500 to 750 mm of rain with a focus across northern Nicaragua and Honduras,” the Hurricane Centre said. “This rainfall would lead to significant, life-threatening flash flooding and river flooding, along with landslides in areas of higher terrain.”

Several Central American countries are still reeling from Hurricane ETA, which killed at least 120 people and left scores missing when it hit earlier this month.

“I am greatly concerned we may soon have another major disaster on our hands in Central America if this Caribbean tropical system pans out like we suspect,” Accuweather hurricane expert Dan Kottlowski said.

I’m pleased to inform you that, after a long delay caused by factors related to the pandemic, the SARL Council has formally appointed Grant Southey ZS1GS as National Director of HAMNET, and Brian Jacobs ZS6YZ as Deputy National Director. These fine gentlemen have been in acting leadership since the end of 2019, and it is nice formally to congratulate them on their appointments. HAMNET has been running smoothly for the past year or so, so clearly their appointment was a good idea!

As mentioned in last week’s bulletin, the Jonkershoek Mountain Challenge trail run last Sunday was affected by rainy and cold weather, but fortunately, due to the change in route announced last Friday, there were no serious incidents.

Some 290 competitors ran one of 3 distances, and 12 operatives, consisting of Mountain Club members, Medics, and HAMNET members were positioned along the route.

Strict COVID protocols were in place, and the runners of the longest race were required to carry bad weather protective gear and emergency sources of food and water in case they got stuck on the mountain.

The radios and frequencies of the Wildrunner organisation were used, and Michael ZS1MJT tells me that the organizers were most grateful for the efficiency of our team. He thanked each and everyone involved as, without them, the event would not have been such a success.

I’m relieved that conditions weren’t as bad as predicted, and that there were no casualties. Thank you for the report Michael!

On United Nations Day, October 24th, the Alexanderson Alternator station SAQ in Sweden transmitted a message in CW on 17.2 kHz urging unity in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. The message transcript follows:

“CQ CQ CQ DE SAQ SAQ SAQ This is Grimeton Radio/SAQ in a transmission using the Alexanderson 200 kW alternator on 17.2 kHz. The global COVID-19 pandemic challenges people and nations to unite, to minimize the negative consequences for individuals and societies, and to uphold the advancements in public health made in recent decades. Good health and wellbeing is a prerequisite for a peaceful and sustainable global development, and health equity cannot be achieved without peace and human security.”

The message was signed by Anders Tegnell, chief epidemiologist of Sweden’s Public Health Agency. SAQ received some 400 listener reports from all over the world, with just 20 reporting they were unable to copy the message. Reports came from Russia, Japan, and the US, as well as Tasmania, 16000 km away.

This is an amazing feat for the transmitter which is now 110 years old.

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