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24 October 2011

Southern Cape Region to get a Weather Radar System

The SAWDIS received the following email this morning:

Hi Johan,

I am not sure if you remember me? We had a talk about weather radar in the South Western Cape about 3 years ago?

I am not sure if you heard, but we are finally installing one in Gouritzmond (Opposite Cooper Station). The installation is currently underway and should be complete by the middle of November 2011. The Eden district disaster management is assisting us with the installation and we are planning to make the data available directly to them as well.

Please do not hesitate to contact me should you require any further information.

Kind regards,

Georgie George
Programme Manager
Projects Office
Office of the CEO
South African Weather Service

The SAWDIS launched a representation drive during September 2009 for a weather radar system for the Southern Cape.  The plea for a radar started by making use of the Mossel Bay Advertiser and other news papers as well as several Internet web-sites to lobby the SA Weather Service for the installation and need to erect a radar station in the Southern Cape to fill a gap stretching from Heidelberg (Cape) in the West to Plettenberg Bay in the East.   Various valid reasons were tabled explaining amongst other the need for free radar images to members of the public after several severe weather events in the Southern Cape.

The SAWDIS received positive feedback from the general public in this regard and it was decided to make representations to  the SA Weather Service, The Premier of the Western Cape, The Minister of Environmental Affairs and Development Planning and the Mayor of Mossel Bay.  A comprehensive presentation was drafted and the final document was forward on the 9 September 2009 to the respective authorities.  Acknowledgement of the documents were promptly received with an endorsement that the request for the installation of a weather radar in the Southern Cape Region is receiving the necessary attention.

The SAWDIS received a letter from Dr L Makuleni, Chief Executive Officer of the SA Weather Service on the 8 October 2009.  He indicated that the SAWS is well aware of the need for this region of a radar system but the SAWS were forced to prioritize the radar systems for regions affected by more frequent convective storm events in shorter periods that have existing aging technology.

He further indicated that the SAWS has been in the process of lobbying national and provincial government for the allocation of funds for the deployment of an additional radar system in the Southern Cape region in support of its disaster management mandate.

Several years passed and several changes took place since 2009.  Weather Radar Images are no longer free to the man in the street and a subscription service was implemented by the SA Weather Service whereby members of the public must pay for weather radar images.  I will not go into detail here as the SAWDIS Blog contain all the relevant information relating to the changes made by the SA Weather Service in this regard.

Now that we finally have a weather radar in the Southern Cape, it is really of no use to the people of the Southern Cape as it is not freely accessible to the general public.   Don't understand me wrong.  I am most grateful for the weather radar but it will really only be of use to the SAWS, Disaster Management and those that can afford to pay the monthly subscription fee. By not making detailed weather radar images freely available to the general public the nations first line of defense against severe weather and the precious gift of time is destroyed.  This surely put more lives at risk as a result of the pursuit of commercial revenues in trying to reduce the tax burden as an objective.  No life of any individual must ever be put at risk in pursuing commericial revenues or trying to reduce a countries tax burden.

A word of thanks to all the following people and organizations who worked so hard behind the scenes for the successful installation of a weather radar system for the Southern Cape:

  • The Premier of the Western Cape, Me Helen Zille
  • The Minister of Environmental Affairs and Development Planning, Mr Anton Bredell
  • The Mayor of Mossel Bay, Me Marie Ferreira
  • The SA Weather Service, Dr Dr L Makuleni, Dr Terblanche and Georgie George
  • The Mossel Bay Advertiser, Suzette Herrer
  • All Internet Web-Sites that supported the request for a weather radar.
  • All those members of the public who expressed an interest
  • All those not mentioned here.

Finally:  I really appreciate the installation of a weather radar in the Southern Cape, however the decision to remove the radar images from the public domain is totally contrary to the fundamental objectives of the weather organizations in most first world countries where the aim is to provide the maximum exposure of real-time accurate data to the widest range of citizens.  Thunderstorms cause death and destruction every year in South Africa and full utilization of free radar data could possibly save lives.

Johan Terblanche
Founder: SA Weather and Disaster Information Service
Mossel Bay
24 October 2011

PS: It is and was never the intention of the SAWDIS to do the work of the SAWS or Disaster Management in South Africa.  Neither are the SAWDIS out to flame or to oppose the SAWS or Disaster Management.  On the contrarily the SAWDIS would still like to establish and continue with a closer relationship i.r.o. all roll players and other services as is the case in many other countries.