HAMNET Report 24th January 2021

Since Tuesday the 19th, GDACS has been watching Tropical Cyclone Eloise-21, as it has made its Indian Ocean way slowly towards the Northern tip of Madagascar. At that stage maximum wind-speeds of 130Km/h were being seen, and about 700000 people in miscellaneous French Islands, Madagascar and Mozambique were in its path. The projection was for it to cross the coast of Mozambique on Friday night, and the Zimbabwe border on Saturday by 20h00 local time. The port city of Beira was predicted to be directly in its path, and authorities started shutting down port activities on Friday morning. By Thursday, wind speeds of 167km/h were being measured and the alert level had been raised to Red.

Later in the week, the path of the storm was extended to enter Botswana by Monday the 25th, the severity of the storm tending to weaken as it crossed further and further inland. By Friday, predictions also suggested that the Northern parts of Limpopo, Mpumalanga and North-West Province would receive heavy downpours and flooding, and that far Northern Kwa-Zulu Natal, and Eswatini would also be hit.

Thobeka Ngema, writing for IOL, noted that the KZN Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs had placed disaster management teams on alert as tropical storm Eloise approached southern Africa. Warnings about heavy downpours were issued, that could result in flooding in parts of KZN, particularly in the northern areas.

Disaster management teams were also placed in uMkhanyakude district to respond to all incidents related to the storm if necessary.

According to KZN Cogta, the disaster management teams were monitoring areas in uMkhanyakude district that are prone to weather-related incidents so they can assist communities if need be.

Sipho Hlomuka, KZN’s Cogta MEC, urged communities in northern parts of the province to be vigilant and to take all necessary precautions.

Storm Report SA reported that tropical storm Eloise had downgraded to a moderate tropical storm as she moved through the Mozambique Channel but was expected to strengthen drastically over the 48 hours before making landfall over Mozambique on Saturday as an intense tropical cyclone.

“Her current path has changed slightly to the north. She is now expected to make landfall just south of Beira, Mozambique. She will weaken into an overland depression and continue to track south-west into the southern parts of Zimbabwe early Sunday morning and eventually the northern parts of Limpopo around Musina on Sunday afternoon,” Storm Report SA said.

Storm Report SA called on Mozambique to take note that Eloise was a dangerous cyclone that could cause havoc in the areas of landfall on Saturday. There would be a dangerous storm surge, heavy rainfall and wind gusts of up to 210km/h.

The HAMNET Divisions in the North of our country are monitoring the situation and preparing to be activated if needed.

The ARRL News says that HamSCI has issued a call for abstracts for its virtual workshop on March 19th and 20th, hosted by the University of Scranton and sponsored by the National Science Foundation.

“The primary objective of the HamSCI workshop is to bring together the amateur radio community and professional scientists,” said HamSCI founder Nathaniel Frissell, W2NAF. The theme is mid-latitude ionospheric physics, “which is especially important to us because the vast majority of hams live in the mid-latitude regions,” Frissell said.

Invited tutorial speakers will be Mike Ruohoniemi of the Virginia Tech SuperDARN initiative and Joe Dzekevich, K1YOW. Elizabeth Bruton, of the Science Museum in London, will be the keynote speaker.

The March conference will also serve as a team meeting for the Personal Space Weather Station project. Frissell said he will coordinate with respective teams for their abstracts.

The HamSCI workshop welcomes abstracts related to development of the Personal Weather Station, ionospheric science, atmospheric science, radio science, space-weather, radio astronomy, and any science topic “that can be appropriately related to the amateur radio hobby.”

I’m fascinated by one aspect of a story concerning a rescue of stranded people with the aid of a drone, down under in Australia. The group of 4 adults and a six-month baby got stuck between two flooded rivers in an area with no cell-phone coverage. With no other means of calling for help, one of the parties hit on a very clever idea. He knew rightly that when you send an SMS on your phone, it will keep trying to send the message until it gets an acknowledgement from a receiving tower.

So, what did he do? He typed the call for help on to his phone, hit the send button, and then attached the phone to his drone. He then flew the drone up as high in the area as was possible, and kept it there for about 5-10 minutes, so that, if there was cell-phone reception, his phone would have time to send the message and receive an acknowledgement from the tower. Then he brought the drone down again, and looked at the phone, and noticed that the SMS had been marked as “sent”, meaning that, while up there, the message had been conveyed to whoever he was trying to contact!

And thus was news of their plight conveyed, and thus were they rescued from their entrapment! Now, isn’t that just so clever? Putting the confirmation indications on the message to good use, and knowing with certainty that your message has been received! I wonder how many of us would have dreamed up that plan!

As I pondered on last week, the Cape Town Cycle Tour, formerly known as the Argus, due to take place in mid-March has been cancelled due to the ongoing pandemic. The risks to participants, spectators, and officials is just too great, and the correct thing to do in such circumstances is to be pro-active, and prevent things from happening, rather than retro-active and try to sweep the statistics of extra cases, hospitalisations and deaths under the carpet, so to speak.

The three new strains of the coronavirus, one first identified in the UK, one coming out of Brazil, and the third here in South Africa are not more lethal, but are at least 50% more infectious, and a large number of new patients come from younger age-groups, something not seen in the first wave in April.

The good news this week is that numbers in all provinces seem to be coming down,  which is wonderful, because we have winter approaching in a few months’ time, and morbidity and mortality both increase during cold weather.

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