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Garth Sampson is a finalist in The Herald Citizens of the Year Awards in partnership with Nelson Mandela University.
‘Weather Guru’ instrumental in keeping public updated through regional office. 
For more than two decades, Gqeberha’s “weather guru” Garth Sampson has been instrumental in keeping the Nelson Mandela Bay public updated about the ever-changing weather conditions through the SA Weather Service (SAWS) regional office.
While weather services began as an interest in high school where he excelled in geography, when Sampson joined the SAWS 41 years ago, keeping the public informed about the weather and climate conditions in the metro, it became more than just a job to him.
As he became more passionate about all things weather-related, the job soon dominated the weatherman’s life and consumed him even after hours.
Sampson, a Bay spokesperson for the SAWS, is a category winner (Innovation in Water) of The Herald Nelson Mandela University Citizens of the Year Awards.
About 11 years ago, Sampson took to social media as his information sharing tool under the name “Weather Guru”.
Sampson said the Facebook page rapidly garnered attention because changes in weather interested everyone for different reasons.
“That [name] ‘Weather Guru’ was actually started by [The Herald podcaster] Daron Mann. “He always referred to me as the weather guru on radio.
“Over 11 years ago I started using that page for my communication with the media because I didn’t have a laptop at home and no other way to communicate with the media when not in the office.
“I would always say to journalists that instead of trying to reach me on the weekends, or when I am unavailable, they can take information from what I post on the page and quote me,” Sampson said.
With certain climate conditions come floods and droughts, and in no time Sampson found himself educating the public about the importance of saving water when he foresaw Nelson Mandela Bay’s drought.
Following the 1981 floods in the Bay, Sampson said the city had experienced a period of drought and later a wet period. This indicated to Sampson that another dry spell would follow.
“I slowly but surely started preparing myself for the upcoming drought because we know here in the Eastern Cape we’re either in a dry or flood situation.
“So if we’re having a lot of rain, we must know we’re going to get a dry period,” he said.
As he started preparing for the drought by getting water tanks to harvest rainwater, he used the Weather Guru Facebook page to share information and encourage the public to save water.
He started warning the public about an upcoming drought more than 10 years ago, he said.
“We had some fantastic rains in 2012, and I was already warning about the drought by then.
“In about 2015, there were already light water restrictions.
“I really started warning the public they needed to save water and find other means to collect water,” he said.
Sampson said as he spoke in meetings about the metro’s drought and tightening water restrictions, he realised there was not enough media communication about water saving and the seriousness of the drought.
It was then that his Facebook page increasingly focused on promoting water saving.
Sampson said he was not only warning and educating about the current drought, but the next one too.
“There is going to be another drought in my lifetime but the big problem is that when it comes, there will be more people in the city.
“Due to increasing population, the next drought will be sooner and it will be worse.”
Sampson was nominated for the Citizens of The Year Award by DA MPL Retief Odendaal.
“Garth has been at the forefront of creating public awareness on the unfolding drought disaster in Nelson Mandela Bay.
“His actions go far beyond his official duties at SAWS and he has single-handedly done more to educate people on the ongoing drought than any other government official or politician,” Odendaal said.
The weatherman said he was humbled and surprised by the nomination because he did not do the work for public praise.
He said he was playing his part for the good of the metro and disabled people who would be further disadvantaged by a shortage of water.
“The whole city has to work together because it’s not only a question of being inconvenienced when you have to go and collect water from a tank, the bigger issue is what is going to happen to industries, the commercial sector and business in the city.
“It’s not only about your house. What about the people in old age and disability homes?”
Sampson also holds weekly presentations with the city’s business sector and non-profit organisations to spread his message.
Award winners will be celebrated during a black-tie gala function at the Radisson Blu Hotel in September.
For more information, contact Berna Ulay Walters on
This article appeared in The Herald (South Africa) on 1 August 2022 written by Zamandulo Malonde

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