Farmers welcome revised weather warning system

Farmers have welcomed a revision of the South African Weather Service’s (SAWS) classification system for severe weather-related hazards.

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According to SAWS, its revised Severe Weather Warning System (SWWS) will issue watches and warnings for six potentially disastrous weather hazards and the public will also receive special advisories for less destructive conditions.
“This modification takes into account international trends as well as local inputs for South African disaster management structures,” said SAWS spokesperson Kenosi Machepa.

“The main purpose is to encourage appropriate responses among the public and disaster management (structures) when a warning is issued for a potentially disastrous situation.” Kosie van Zyl of Agri SA said that for farmers, an effective early warning system for severe weather conditions was an important planning tool. He added that such systems were already widely used in developed countries with sophisticated weather monitoring and warning systems.

Van Zyl said the revised system would help farmers provided it was well-managed and warnings were quickly and widely distributed. South African Canegrowers, representing the country’s sugarcane farmers, expressed similar sentiments, adding that in recent years, farmers were increasingly utilising information from online weather monitoring websites to gain a clearer and more accurate picture of potential weather patterns and events.

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“Certain weather websites appear to be more accurate than others. Growers will have determined which of the available information sources best provide the most credible information for their region and rely on those,” said David Wayne, SA Canegrowers’ executive director. TAU SA said while it too welcomed the revised system, it remained concerned that the information was not always accurate.

“Accurate warnings must be issued for realistically urgent situations so that there are no unnecessary instances of crying wolf so that the service’s credibility is not brought into question. Unnecessary warnings that prove inaccurate could result in people becoming complacent regarding future warnings,” TAU SA’s Henk van de Graaf said.

SAWS explained that SWWS watches and warnings would respectively cover potential heavy rain of more than 50mm in 24 hours, flash flooding, severe thunderstorms with the potential for significant hail, tornadoes, strong winds and flooding, gale force winds of more than 62km/h, disruptive snowfalls, high seas and high danger conditions for veld fires.