We should not be caught nap­ping

Daily Trust - - OPINION -

The Nige­ria Me­te­o­ro­log­i­cal Agency (NiMeT) re­cently warned that stormy rains are to be ex­pected in the south­ern and cen­tral belts of the coun­try in De­cem­ber. This is quite un­usual be­cause rains cease in most ar­eas of the coun­try by De­cem­ber. Even in ar­eas that ex­pe­ri­ence what ge­og­ra­phers call “dou­ble max­ima,” that is two rain­fall peaks in a year, it hardly rains in De­cem­ber.

NiMeT said, “The gen­eral pub­lic is ad­vised to avoid out­door ac­tiv­i­ties dur­ing this stormy weather as the strong winds may in some oc­ca­sions up­root trees, dam­age elec­tric poles and af­fect build­ing roof tops. The south­ern­most parts of the coun­try will how­ever con­tinue to ex­pe­ri­ence rains till the third week of De­cem­ber. Dur­ing this pe­riod, storms are ex­pected to de­velop and will present as thun­der with mod­er­ate to heavy rains and at times ac­com­pa­nied by strong sur­face winds of value up to (50knots) 100km/h.”

Me­te­orog­i­cal ex­perts say the stormy rains be­ing pre­dicted by NIMET have not oc­curred in this coun­try in the last decade, so it is an un­usual weather sit­u­a­tion in­deed. The pre­dic­tion should be taken se­ri­ously be­cause in re­cent years NiMeT has im­proved on its weather fore­cast abil­i­ties. It ac­cu­rately pre­dicted the heavy rains and the dev­as­tat­ing floods of 2012. Its pre­dic­tion of light rains in the cen­tral states this year has also been borne out.

Usu­ally there is a cer­tain im­pre­ci­sion about weather fore­casts, the sci­ence of weather fore­cast­ing be­ing less pre­cise than other nat­u­ral sciences. Weather fore­casts are also more pre­cise when they are lo­cal­ized, so a gen­eral pre­dic­tion cov­er­ing whole re­gions such as “cen­tral states” or “south­ern states” may turn out to be in­ac­cu­rate in some ar­eas. Hence, we urge NiMeT to act within the avail­able time to sup­ply lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties with pre­cise fore­casts for their ar­eas.

The most im­por­tant thing for now is for all per­sons and author­i­ties to get ready. Three years ago when the agency pre­dicted heavy rains and the pos­si­bil­ity of floods, peo­ple largely ig­nored the no­tice un­til the floods set in, killed some 300 per­sons and washed away thou­sands of homes and farm­lands in sev­eral states. All stake­hold­ers must there­fore take full ad­van­tage of the warn­ing this time around and ad­e­quately pre­pare for the storms and folds. The Na­tional Emer­gency Man­age­ment Agency and State Emer­gency Man­age­ment Agen­cies, be­ing the prin­ci­pal pub­lic agen­cies re­spon­si­ble for dis­as­ter re­sponse, must not be caught nap­ping this time around.

Cit­i­zens too have a very im­por­tant role to play in re­sponse to this alert. It will be fool­hardy to carry on as if noth­ing is im­pend­ing, only to shout when the storms come that “gov­ern­ment” has not done enough to avert dis­as­ter. As has of­ten been ex­plained, it is not so much the quan­tity of wa­ter that causes flood­ing as the block­age of drainage chan­nels. It is ev­ery­one’s duty to en­sure that drainage chan­nels around his or her house are cleared for the wa­ter to pass. Com­mu­ni­ties that live in low­land ar­eas would do well to evac­u­ate in time be­fore the storms set in. Since storms with very strong winds are pre­dicted, ev­ery­one will do well to re­in­force his roof and re­move any hang­ing tree branches that are likely to top­ple over in a storm.

Farm­ers should also pre­pare for this un­usual sit­u­a­tion be­cause such storms could de­stroy har­vested farm pro­duce that is still ly­ing in the fields to dry. Tu­ber crops that are usu­ally grown in that time of the year could also be ad­versely af­fected. De­cem­ber is also the time that maize and guinea corn are ripened by har­mat­tan winds, so heavy rains at this time could eas­ily de­stroy them. Agri­cul­tural ex­ten­sion agen­cies should rise to the oc­ca­sion and ex­plain to farm­ers what they should do in this sit­u­a­tion.

NiMeT’s warn­ing about the need to min­i­mize out­door ac­tiv­i­ties dur­ing the storm pe­riod is also very im­por­tant. De­cem­ber is Christ­mas pe­riod and a lot of trav­el­ling takes place in this coun­try in De­cem­ber to be at home with loved ones. This year we must fac­tor in the un­usual weather in our trav­el­ling plans. All hands must be on deck. It will be too bad if, hav­ing been fore­warned, we are again caught nap­ping.

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