The South African Weather Service (SAWS) on Thursday, said their “technology” failed them during the recent spate of severe weather which has left a trail of destruction and fatalities in many parts of the country.
“The information we provide only has utility when it is received timeously, in advance and acted up prior to the arrival of an event. Needless to say those that require to respond to the event [the severe weather] also require that information so we are required to provide reliable services during an event, and to provide a service post the event,” SAWS chief executive Jerry Lengoasa said addressing journalists in Pretoria.
“It is therefore critical that our infrastructure is resilient to these severe events. The events of this week have also provided us an opportunity to reflect as an institution on where we may or may not have failed.”
Lengoasa said some of the equipment has not been up to the task.
“We can safely say in very short, our technology, some of our technology failed us. Whilst the automatic weather stations, our automatic rain gauge networks, our upper air sounding stations, and our lightning detection networks were fully functional during the storm, sadly, of the five radar systems that we required to be active and up — only one was fully functional,” said Lengoasa.
“The second [radar system] which was available had regular transmission faults.”
The SAWS is a technical, scientific and service oriented entity of the State, with a responsibility to reach the 57 million South Africans everyday with life and limb saving information.
SAWS said severe thunderstorms with heavy downpours, strong damaging winds and large hail hit parts of North West, Gauteng, eastern Frees State, KwaZulu-Natal, Mpumalanga and Limpopo provinces between Monday and Tuesday this week.
“There were two sightings of tornadoes in Ruimsig [in Gauteng’s West Rand] and Eloff near Delmas in Mpumalanga which caused extensive damage to property. Elsewhere, in the Free State, a tornado was also observed near Bethulie. Extremely large hail — golf balls to tennis balls size — was also reported near Krugersdorp,” the SAWS said in a statement on Thursday.
The statement also said on Monday, a line of thunderstorms developed east of a cut-off low pressure system which was situated over the western parts of the country.