Flashing for lightning

2018-02-12 10:25
University of KwaZulu-Natal third-year agrometerology students Chayan Singh and Kevin Avery install a early warning system for lightning at a rural school near Wartburg.

University of KwaZulu-Natal third-year agrometerology students Chayan Singh and Kevin Avery install a early warning system for lightning at a rural school near Wartburg. (Supplied)

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An early warning system for lightning strikes has been installed at a rural school near Wartburg to alert the community when lightning comes too close for comfort.

The system was set up at Swayimane High School near Wartburg last Friday by University of KwaZulu-Natal Agrometeorology Dr Alistair Clulow, two students and the agrometeorology technician, Viceck Naicken.

Speaking to Weekend Witness yesterday, Clulow said rural areas in KwaZulu-Natal were particularly prone to lightning strikes due to the mountainous terrain.

He said there had been several incidents over the past few years where people had died due to lightning strikes.

He said while the system was set up at the school, it could be seen and heard by the rest of the community.

He said the system had three lights, with two sensors.

One sensor picks up when lightning hits the ground and the other sensor measures the build-up of electrical charge in the air so if there is a storm with lightning on its way, the sensor will pick it up before it arrives.

He said the system will show a blue light if everything is clear.

If lightning strikes the ground 17-32 km away from the sensors, the orange light will come on, showing caution.

If the lightning is 0-16 km away, the red light will switch on, as will an alarm.

He said the system was all automated and recorded the data to a web page.

He said it would then send e-mails to teachers and prominent community members when there were warnings.

Clulow said the system was a pilot project and that he was hoping to roll the system out to two schools in Richmond.

He said the Swayimane area also had a weather station set up by Clulow and the university that the community uses for agriculture and records data such as wind speed, rain and temperature.

Clulow also wants to install a lightning system at the university that will serve UKZN, Maritzburg College, Scottsville Primary, Epworth, and all the other schools and sports grounds in the area.

“It would serve a large part of the city but we need the support of the community. All the infrastructure is already there,” he said.

Swayimane deputy principal Thuthukani Mdunge said the school’s staff and pupils as well as the Swayimane community are “very excited” about the system.

He said the system had been explained to the pupils who had initially thought it might be some sort of system monitoring them.

“We have a good relationship with UKZN. They also set up a weather station which the community and the pupils use often.”

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  technology

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