At this time of the year, natural disasters are never far from our minds.
Knowing the season that we are in and how vulnerable we are to climate calamities, we have come to expect that anything could happen.
So the bad weather of the past few days comes as no surprise. It is only the latest of some extreme weather patterns we have been witnessing in the past few months and weeks.
The worry is that if the trend continues, we could be in for a very rough weekend. In any case, while this piece was being compiled yesterday evening, the Samoa Meteorology Office issued the latest update in relation to the weather.
The update revealed that there are two tropical disturbances developing in the southwest Pacific. The first is TD08F (weak tropical depression) southwest of Tonga and TD07F (developing tropical depression) just northwest of Fiji group.
“Another low pressure system circulates broadly near the southern Cooks bringing the wind convergence and unstable weather lingering in the vicinity of Samoa islands. Overcast conditions and heavy rainfall will continue to affect Samoa today,” the update reads.
“Southern districts of both major islands, including Manono and Apolima islands, can expect 35-40 mph (55-65 km/hr) wind gusts at times as well as highlands.
“On land, we have a Heavy Rainfall Warning and Wind Advisory current for all of Samoa. Possible floods for low-lying vulnerable areas and near river banks, and potential landslides for high risk areas.”
So what is the outlook for Samoa?
“Our primary focus is monitoring the Tropical Disturbance (TD07F) development-wise and potential hazards to Samoa in the next 24-48 hours,” the update reads.
“It is predicted to move toward Wallis and Futuna by tomorrow afternoon (today) and intensify further as it nears Samoa by Saturday morning.
“Rainfall activity will continue to amplify and northwest winds expected to strengthen. The public is advised to remain vigilant and take precautionary measures, make sure you have the latest update on the weather.”
Well the message is pretty clear. In times like this, there are only a few things we can do which includes being prepared, staying alert, listening to updates from the weather office on the radio, staying calm and pray.
We say this because from our experience with recent cyclones, there is not much else we can do. Nobody wants a cyclone – or any natural disaster for that matter. Without a doubt, it is the last thing we need.
But then these things are not determined by us and what we want. They happen when we least expect them to and at their harshest, they destroy and kill indiscriminately. They don’t care. Which is why we must do the best we can to be prepared.
The flooding yesterday is already a bad sign. Some pictures of the Vaisigano and Lelata area immediately cast our minds back to Cyclone Evan, which caused unimaginable damage to homes, properties and many businesses in the area.
The good news is that this time around, people should be a lot more prepared.
So what can you do?
Well the first thing is not to panic. We must remain calm and be rational in our decision making as we prepare our homes and families.
Our Disaster Management Office, Disaster Advisory Committee and the Samoa Meteorology Office would have been issuing public notices about what we all need to do.
And in the case, you are not sure what to do before, during and after a cyclone, we are bringing you the following tips to help protect yourselves, families and your properties. It’s better to be safe than sorry.
Think safety and stay prepared. May God bless Samoa!
BEFORE A STORM
• Re-check your house for any loose material and tie down
• Check your emergency kit and fill water containers
• Ensure you know where the strongest part of the building is
• Close shutters or board-up or heavily tape all windows. Draw curtains and lock doors
• Pack an evacuation kit of warm clothes, essential medications, valuables and important papers (as well as your emergency kit)
• Trim treetops and branches well clear of any structures
• Clear the property of loose material that could blow about and possibly cause injury or damage
DURING A STORM
• Listen to updates on the radio, stay inside, stay calm.
• Disconnect all electrical appliances.
• Stay inside and shelter (well clear of windows) in the strongest part of the building, i.e. cellar, internal hallway or bathroom. Keep evacuation and emergency kits with you
• If the building starts to break up, protect yourself with mattresses, rugs or blankets under a strong table or bench or hold onto a solid fixture, e.g. a water pipe
• Beware the calm ‘eye’. If the wind drops, don’t assume the cyclone is over; violent winds will soon resume from another direction. Wait for the official ‘all clear’
WHAT HAPPENS AFTER
• Don’t go outside until officially advised it is safe
• Don’t use electrical appliances if wet
• If you have to evacuate, or did so earlier, don’t return until advised.
• Beware of damaged power lines, bridges, buildings, trees, and don’t enter floodwaters
• Heed all warnings and don’t go sightseeing
• Don’t make unnecessary telephone calls
WHAT YOU NEED IN AN EMERGENCY KIT
• Portable battery radio
• Torch and spare batteries
• Water containers, dried or canned food & can opener
• Matches, fuel lamp, portable stove, cooking and eating equipment
• First aid kit and manual
• Tape & waterproof bags
• Store somewhere safe and handy