BEHIND THAT RAINY DIWALI
‘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’ ‘Had anyone sought advice, I would have suggested them not to even both
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.