FFE Magazine

More visual storm surge forecast sought in PH

by FFE PH News staff

 

Nationwide Operational Assessment of Hazards (Project NOAH) executive director Dr Mahar Lagmay warned that those who say storm surges were like tsunamis were irresponsible.

 

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Many journalists have asked if the devastation following typhoon Yolanda could have been lessened if people were told to expect a tsunami. This is because storm surges were relatively less known then than a tsunami. However, Dr Lagmay clarified that, although the effects of the two phenomena looked the same, they were caused by different things.

 

Earthquakes are unpredictable, and tsunami alerts are usually ideally issued right after the earthquake happens. On the other hand, in a storm surge scenario, people will be given advance warning since storms develop over a longer span of time and weather agencies can better predict the paths a typhoon takes.

 

Dr Lagmay said that Project NOAH was able to give their storm surge alerts two days before typhoon Yolanda hit land on 8 November.

 

‘In a tsunami scenario, [people] only have to 10 to 15 minutes to run to higher ground. What will happen? The community is big. Everyone will run, there will be panic and it can cause a stampede.

 

‘[In a storm surge scenario], because you are given two days’ advance warning, you can have a planned evacuation. Evacuation is steady. You don’t create panic. You don’t create confusion. You don’t create a stampede.’

 

The executive director confessed that Project NOAH and the government should be more visual when describing storm impacts in the future. He said that President Aquino mentioned the possibility of storm surges in a televised speech before Yolanda made landfall. In addition, the media was able to cover storm surges in the days before 8 November.

 

But Dr Lagmay still stressed the need for high-impact and visual content to get the message across to residents in vulnerable areas. Education is also vital to prepare against future calamities.

 

Many in the academe have likewise suggested a number of terms that can be used to describe the storm surge phenomena. One candidate is the word ‘daluyong,’ and old Tagalog word for waves. ‘Humbak’ is another suggestion which, according a researcher, is said to have come from a 17th century Spanish-Tagalog dictionary.

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