HAMNET Report 16th April 2023

The Global Disaster Alert Coordination System (GDACS) issued its first warning on Thursday advising Western Australians to be on high alert as Tropical Cyclone Ilsa was expected to intensify into a category 4 system, bringing gusts of 250 km/h when it made landfall between Broome and Port Hedland in the late afternoon on Friday.

The system was likely to damage roofing, knock over trees, cause floods, and cause widespread power outages over the western Kimberley region, with storms possibly extending into the Pilbara and northern interior.

The Bureau of Meteorology later upgraded Cyclone Ilsa definitively to category 4 status with gusts of wind near the centre up to 230km/h as it tracked towards the coast 290km north of Port Hedland at 00:00 UTC 13th April.

Winds in Ilsa’s “very destructive core” were expected to gust up to 275 km/h with very heavy rains (up to 400 mm) and abnormally high tides on Thursday night into Friday morning local time, before the storm moved inland, over the East Pilbara Shire and the Northern Interior District (Pilbara Region), on 14th April, weakening into a tropical storm.

A yellow cyclone alert was put in place along more than 700km of coastline between an area south of Broome and Whim Creek, while residents in the populated mining town of Port Hedland were preparing to head into lockdown.

Over the following 36 hours, very heavy rainfall, strong winds and storm surges were forecast over the western and central Pilbara Region. The Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) issued a warning zone for gales over this area.

Severe weather was also reported in Philippines, Peru, Burundi, Brazil, Somalia and Israel, with flood warnings forecast in Belarus, Latvia, Romania, Ukraine, Iran and Iraq.

A new study from the University of the Witwatersrand and the University of Brighton in the United Kingdom has confirmed that the April 2022 floods were likely the most catastrophic natural disaster recorded in KwaZulu-Natal, in terms of the lives lost and overall economic impact. 

Exactly one year ago this week, KwaZulu-Natal was hit by devastating flooding that claimed the lives of 459 people, destroyed more than 4 000 homes and left 40 000 people homeless. 

In April last year, the KwaZulu-Natal coastal zone, including the greater Durban area and South Coast, received more than 300mm of rain in 24 hours. By the end of May last year, 88 people were still missing and 45 000 people were temporarily left unemployed. The cost of infrastructure and business losses amounted to an estimated R35 billion. 

According to the study, the heavy rainfall that triggered the flooding and mass movement events was “reported in national and international media as having ‘smashed weather records’. However, no systematic and up-to-date flood record exists for KwaZulu-Natal to allow the April 2022 floods to be viewed within their full historical context”. 

The scientists found that while the floods were indeed the most catastrophic in terms of lives lost, infrastructure damaged, and economic loss, the flood was not actually the biggest in terms of the area affected, homes destroyed, or the amount of rainfall that fell collectively over a few days.

In April 1856, 303mm of rain fell in Durban over 24 hours and a record 691mm over a three-day period from 14th to 16th April. During these historic floods, an unknown number of people drowned, the entire central area of Durban was flooded, bridges were destroyed and roads were closed for several days, cutting off all communication with other parts of the country. 

The floods extended inland to Howick and the Umgeni Bridge was swept away. Over a 16km stretch of beach, between the mouths of the Umgeni and Umhlanga rivers, 200 drowned oxen were deposited.

According to the authors, it is highly likely that recent human-induced global climate warming has contributed to trends of increased flooding as they had demonstrated in their study. This trend is likely to continue in the foreseeable future. 

Thanks to the Mail & Guardian for this article.

Capetownetc.com reported on Wednesday that the NSRI Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) and NSRI rescue stations across the West Coast are keeping a lookout for the sailing vessel AKELA II, in cooperation with the Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre (MRCC).

A solo sailor, Emmanuel Dailler, a Frenchman aged 56, aboard the AKELA II departed Hout Bay Yacht Club on 2nd March 2023 for Martinique, in the Caribbean. The mono-hull white sailing yacht and solo sailor are now believed to be overdue, reports the NSRI.

The NSRI, in cooperation with MRCC, is appealing to seafarers on the Atlantic Ocean, islands across the Atlantic Ocean, West African coastal ports and Caribbean ports to keep a lookout and report any sightings or contact with the vessel.

AKELA II is equipped only with marine VHF radio communications on board. The yacht is plain white, with no yacht name appearing on the hull.

The NSRI notes that an AKELA II that is currently in the Caribbean is not related to the missing AKELA II with solo sailor, Emmanuel Dailler.

At this stage, the last known contact with Dailler was on his departure from the Hout Bay Yacht Club on 2nd March.

I’m sure we all hope for good news very soon.

World Amateur Radio Day (WARD) occurs on Tuesday April 18th, 2023, and will celebrate the IARU’s 98th anniversary. On this day in 1925, the IARU was formed in Paris. American Radio Relay League® (ARRL) Co-Founder Hiram Percy Maxim was its first president.

This year’s theme is Human Security for All (HS4A). The day is being celebrated with a 2-week operating event between the 11th and 25th April.

Dave Sumner, K1ZZ, IARU Assistant Secretary, reports that thanks to the support of the IARU Region 1 Youth Working Group, a special website, hs4a.iaru.org, has been established to manage the operating event. All radio amateurs are encouraged to take to the airwaves during WARD to enjoy their global friendship with other amateurs and to show their skills and capabilities to the public.

Thanks to the ARRL Letter of this week for those notes.

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