‘Weather ser­vice needs R30m boost’

Ad­vanced tech­nol­ogy re­quired to save lives in storms – CEO

Pretoria News - - NEWS - JAMES MAHLOKWANE james.mahlokwane@inl.co.za

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.

PIC­TURE: OUPA MOKOENA/ANA

South African Weather Ser­vice head Jerry Len­goasa briefs the me­dia about this week’s se­vere storms in Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal.

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