‘Weather service needs R30m boost’
Advanced technology required to save lives in storms – CEO
THE South African Weather Service (Saws) needed to improve its infrastructure and communication outreach if it was to provide satisfactory information that saved life and limb, chief executive Jerry Lengoasa said yesterday.
He was speaking during a media briefing in Pretoria, following the extreme weather conditions experienced earlier this week.
He was referring to Saws’s response to the two severe weather events in Gauteng and KwaZuluNatal, where at least seven people lost their lives. Among them was a toddler, who was swept away from a flooded daycare home when the property was damaged.
Lengoasa said, globally, 80% to 90% of disasters were caused by hydro-meteorological weather, water and climate, or were exacerbated by such hazards.
“South Africa is not exempt to such extremes. In the face of a changing climate through global warming, these extremes are expected to increase, some in frequency and intensity,” Lengoasa explained.
He added that although some of these hazards were predictable well in advance, such as Cyclone Dineo, others came with limited time for warnings to be issued because of their rapid evolution.
Lengoasa and his team announced that four of their radars in Durban, North West, Mthatha and Ermelo failed to work accordingly. Of the five radars the company needed, only two were available.
The weatherman revealed that they sent out weather watch and severe weather warnings. However, these were directed at primary firstlevel users, such as the National Disaster Management Centre, media and private sector clients and partners, such as the insurance sector, but the majority of citizens did not receive the critical life- and livelihood-saving information.
The team announced that it utilised infrastructure that was more than 10 years old and it hoped to upgrade to advanced technology that was used in countries such as the US for more accurate forecasts.
The company revealed that, between Monday and Tuesday, severe thunderstorms with heavy downpours, strong damaging winds and large hail hit parts of the eastern parts of North West, Gauteng, eastern Free State, KwaZulu-Natal, Mpumalanga and Limpopo.
Areas that were the most affected were Mogale City, City of Joburg and Ekurhuleni. The were two sightings of tornadoes in Ruimsig and Eloff, near Delmas, which caused extensive damage to property.
Elsewhere in the Free State, a tornado was also observed near Bethulie and an extremely large hailstorm was reported near Krugersdorp.
The weather service said on Tuesday that Durban recorded 108mm of rain in 24 hours, with 65mm falling between 9am and 10am.
Virginia, in KZN, received 142mm of rain, with 89mm falling in one hour, between 11am and noon. A maximum sustained wind speed of 75km and 78km/ph were reported in Durban and at King Shaka International Airport respectively.
At least R30 million was needed urgently if the weather service was to improve communication strategies and tools used to detect and disseminate warnings.
South African Weather Service head Jerry Lengoasa briefs the media about this week’s severe storms in Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal.