26 August 2005

South Africa: Seafarers warned of freak waves

A vicious storm is blowing up at sea to the south of the country and the maritime industry has been warned to take precautions.

Huge swells with a long period between them, dangerous especially to large ships, gale-force south-westerlies and possible wave anomalies in the Agulhas Current may combine to make life tough for sailors tomorrow and Saturday, warns weather expert Jean-Pierre Arabonis.

The storm's intensity will probably not be felt strongly on land because the storm will pass by to the south, but heavy rains could be expected overnight tomorrow to Saturday, and temperatures could again plummet, said Professor Bruce Hewitson of the University of Cape Town's Climatology Research Group.

Arabonis, who runs a satellite weather tracking system used to warn ships of weather dangers, said the storm would be severe at sea.

"We have got a hell of a deep low-pressure system to the south-west of the country and it should intensify with a strong high-pressure system behind it," he said.

"If I was on a bulk carrier sailing out of Saldanha Bay or down the coast from Durban and I had an option to fly off now, I would fly off."

Arabonis said the combination of weather moving up the south and east coast and the current moving down could bring about the anomalous wave conditions often described as "freak" waves that had severely damaged or sunk vessels along that coast over many years.

"(Computer) models of this weather pattern shows that it will not fizzle out, like similar systems did last year," he said.

"By what it looks like now, I'd say we can expect swells of 10 metres off Cape Point. The conditions have created wave periods of up to 16 seconds, which means the distance from wave to wave is about 350 metres.

"It is this kind of weather that sank the Apollo Sea in 1994 and damaged the Treasure in 2000 sufficiently that she later sank in Table Bay," said Arabonis.

Source: www.capeargus.co.za


Post a Comment

<< Home