Fiji Sun - - Big Story - Sushil K. Sharma Sushil K. Sharma is an As­so­ciate Pro­fes­sor of Me­te­o­rol­ogy and a World Me­te­o­ro­log­i­cal Or­gan­i­sa­tion cer­ti­fied Class 1 Pro­fes­sional Meteorologist, with ex­ten­sive re­gional op­er­a­tional ex­pe­ri­ence in weather fore­cast­ing. Feed­back: jy­otip@fi­jisu

On the morn­ing of Di­wali (Oc­to­ber 30), Fi­jians woke up ex­tremely ex­cited as it was go­ing to be an event­ful day with­out re­al­is­ing that the rain gods would shower the Fes­ti­val of Lights. As the evening ap­proached, fireworks would be doomed as it turned out very gloomy in­deed. There was con­tin­u­ous rain till un­til 5am yes­ter­day. It was muddy with wet con­di­tions in many part of Fiji. Rain­fall en­hanced to the Western and North­ern parts of the larger is­lands be­cause of orographic lift­ing of clouds over the moun­tains, due to low level North-West­erly winds over Fiji.

As a for­tune teller, I had al­ready as­sessed the sit­u­a­tion and looked at the satel­lite pic­tures, the syn­op­tic weather charts for the re­gion, the Nau­sori, Labasa and Nadi weather radars. I had also done a prog­no­sis of the weather con­di­tions over us, for the Di­wali evening. Had any­one sought ad­vice, I would have sug­gested them not to even bother with the out­side ac­tiv­i­ties and to not waste with out­side wiring and light­ing dis­plays. What­ever the case, Hin­dus had their work cut out for the day with never missing early morn­ing puja to all the deities, be­fore start­ing the hec­tic and of­ten tir­ing chores for Di­wali.

There’s lots of things to do like making sweets and pre­par­ing food for fam­ily and friends and so on and so forth.

For ex­cited chil­dren, still wait­ing with their ‘bangers’ – bought many days ago in an­tic­i­pa­tion – the day was go­ing to be never-end­ing and then there was the rit­ual sun­set Puja. With­out this, they would not be able to go to the yard and start their fireworks. The af­ter-sun­set Puja to the God of Wealth – Maha Lak­shmi, is of­ten the en­tire ba­sis for Di­wali, apart from other less sig­nif­i­cant rea­sons. You may have noted a ghostly silence around 6 to 6.45pm. As one, Hin­dus were per­form­ing their re­li­gious du­ties like of­fer­ing prayers of thanks­giv­ing. With so much to do on Di­wali, no one took no­tice that the evening would be a to­tal wash out, with rain and thun­der­storms. My lamen­ta­tions, ex­pres­sions of grief, dis­may, dis­ap­point­ment, an­guish, pain and mis­ery – what­ever way you de­scribe it, was un­der­stand­able. As a for­mer weather fore­caster for the re­gion –– a meteorologist in my own right – I was cer­tain of my pre­dic­tion that 2016 Di­wali evening would turn to be a fizzer. Cel­e­brants would want to light out­side can­dles, oil lamps, play with fire­crack­ers, go for walks around the neigh­bour­hood or drive around the city to look at the lovely light­ing dis­plays, and visit friends and fam­i­lies homes at nights in their best at­tire.

For starters, the many elec­tri­cal wiring and lights in open air would not be able to op­er­ate with the fear of elec­tri­cal prob­lems due to rain wa­ter get­ting into the fit­tings and fix­tures. How­ever, many Fi­jians were not aware that by late af­ter­noon, Viti Levu would be be­come very wet with con­stant rain and driz­zle and with thun­der in many places.

The Na­tional Weather Fore­cast­ing Cen­tre (NWFC) 7-Day Weather Out­look for Fiji Is­sued from Nadi on Thurs­day 27th Oc­to­ber 2016 said: “Sun 30/10 Cloudy pe­ri­ods with af­ter­noon or evening show­ers. Mod­er­ate south­east­erly. 30/23”. This fore­cast was still on­line, five days later, at the time of writ­ing.

In fact these are the long-range fore­casts one would look up to, to make a few days ad­vance de­ci­sions, es­pe­cially for spe­cial events like Di­wali.

No spe­cific fore­cast was also ever heard from the NWFC in re­la­tion to a na­tional event which comes once a year, and is of such cul­tural sig­nif­i­cance that it has a na­tional hol­i­day as­so­ci­ated with it. I was def­i­nitely dis­ap­pointed. Whilst work­ing at NWFC as a me­te­o­rol­o­gists in the past, we used to even do spe­cial fore­casts for the oc­cur­rence or non-oc­cur­rence of af­ter­noon show­ers ac­tiv­ity for the lo­cal ho­tels; es­pe­cially for the Sher­a­ton Fiji Re­sort. The ho­tel staff mem­bers ap­peared to be very weather savvy, and our in­for­ma­tion helped them de­cide whether to set out­door ta­bles for evening BBQ’s for guests, or to keep them in­doors. It was quite ap­par­ent that peo­ple were quite obliv­i­ous, un­aware, un­con­scious, ig­no­rant, of the fact that Fiji would be wit­ness­ing a com­pletely rained out Di­wali evening.

It was the anti-cli­max twist - shat­ter­ing the dream of fun, laugh­ter, gai­ety and the an­tic­i­pated en­ter­tain­ment of al­most the en­tire pop­u­lace of the nation. At around 3pm, peo­ple started to get wor­ried as rain started to de­velop over Fiji, start­ing from the Western and North­ern parts of Viti and Vanua Levu. This was due to a North-West to South­east ori­ented trough of low pres­sure sys­tem ly­ing over Fiji be­com­ing more marked, with very ac­tive clouds de­vel­op­ing to the far north­west of Fiji, and run­ning down the trough line, right across our nation.

Satel­lite and radar pic­tures clearly showed the slow ad­vanc­ing ac­tive cloud mass ly­ing over Fiji mov­ing our way from the north­west of Fiji some 200 to 300 km north­west of Nadi.

It was ex­pected to en­ve­lope Fiji af­ter 6pm with driz­zle be­com­ing pro­nounced and heavy. This did hap­pen. And as ex­pected, thun­der­storms were heard in many parts around 9pm. It rained all night eas­ing some­what the next morn­ing around 5am. Di­wali had come and gone! It was al­most a non-event, as the cli­max that was to come in the evening be­fore was ab­sent due to the weather. I could see and touch the rain, and in do­ing so, even vi­su­alised the great lyrics and the med­ley of beau­ti­ful Pop mu­sic ‘Blame it on the Rain’, a great num­ber by Milli Vanilli.

Nadi weather radar con­tin­u­ously scan­ning at 10-minute in­ter­vals at 1 de­gree-el­e­va­tion with a range of 300 km, show­ing ac­tive cloud bands mov­ing to­wards Fiji from the north­west with some rain al­ready over Viti Levu at 3:30pm on Oc­to­ber 30.

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