Thursday, October 10, 2013

STH stormwatch (update) : The storm gets a name, Cyclone PHAILIN

09Oct2013 : The deep depression over east central Bay of Bengal has intensified into a Cyclonic Storm "PHAILIN" which is Thai for "sapphire" (for a comprehensive read on how cyclones are named see here). 

IMetD forecast states :-
"The cyclonic storm, Phailin over east central Bay of Bengal moved slightly northwest wards, and lay centred at 0230 hrs IST of today the 10th October 2013 near latitude 14.00N and longitude 92.00E, about 900km southsouth east of Paradip, 950km south east of Kalingapatnam, 1000 km east-southeast of  Visakhapatnam. The system would intensify into a severe cyclonic storm during next 24 hours.It would continue to move northwest wards and cross north Andhra Pradesh and Odisha coast between Kalingapatnam and Paradip by night of 12th October, 2013 as a very severe cyclonic storm with a maximum sustained wind speed of 175-185 kmph".

The Odisha Government has issued a high alert and cancelled Dussehra holidays for employees in 14 districts (Balasore, Bhadrak, Mayurbhanj, Keonjhar, Dhenkanal, Jajpur, Cuttack, Kendrapara, Jagatsinghpur, Puri, Khurda, Nayagarh, Ganjam and Gajapati districts). District Collectors along with the Odisha Disaster Rapid Action Force  have been asked to ensure the safety of the people.
In this regard, Odisha has one of the best State Disaster Management Authorities in the country, see here.

STH has been tracking this storm for some days now and it will be 2 more days before it makes landfall. Several points emerge from this :-
  • Thanks to advances in technology and at least for hydrological disasters (floods, landslides and even flashfloods) it is possible to get several days advance warning  and it is rare that such an event will occur suddenly and without any notice.
  • Again satellite imagery, doppler radar and other techniques can give us largely accurate forecast on the expected intensity of rain and duration.
  • Track predications of storms has also become accurate and our observation has been that severe storms have made landfall more or less as predicted.
  • What is of essence, therefore is what we do with all this information which is now available to us?
    • Have we trained and prepared for such an eventuality?
    • How good are our defenses to absorb and withstand intense, heavy rainfall for several days?
    • Do we have a volunteer force of young people who can help in evacuation, search and rescue?
    • Have we identified the vulnerable, landslide prone areas and vulnerable sections of society?
    • Can the drainage system in our urban mountain centres handle the huge volumes of water which the storm will dump?
    • Is the State Disaster Response Force (SDRF) trained and well equipped?
    • Are back - up generators and battery operated wireless communication gear available at control rooms and life-line structures?
These and many more questions will have to be answered where ever Cyclone Phailin hits the shore in few days time.

Praful and Rohan Rao,
District Darjeeling,

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