Sunday, June 10, 2007

Tropical Cyclone Gonu

Wednesday Tropical Cyclone Gonu hit here. Not so much as hit here as gave the country a long sideways pummel. The rains started at around 4am and continued until about midnight. The weather probably was at its most extreme from noon to 4pm.

Like Katrina, the hurricane was about category 5, however by the time it here it had dissipated down to a category 1 or 2. Like Katrina, the devastation was not caused so much by the storm itself, but by the flooding that accompanied it. With Katrina it was the failures of levees. With Gonu it was the overflowing of the wadis (normally dried up riverbeds with their sources in the mountains). Some friends of ours reported that they saw a dump truck being swept away by the force of the water and it was just being rolled like a Tonka truck. . In other parts of the city whole sections of the expressway were washed out.

At school, the on campus housing got about an inch of mud when the wadi their housing backs on overflowed. Fortunately there was a solid retaining wall in place, and all the teachers and their families were in the school at the time so no one was hurt. The church across the street from the school was buried in mud. It came within 2 feet of the top of the door. The Toyota workshop next to the church was basically swept downstream. Cars and trucks are strewn all over for about a kilometer. Some buried up to their roofs in sand and muck

We thought we were weathering the storm very well. Until about 6pm, everything was working very well. We had power, electricity, water, telephone and an ADSL connection. The worst of the storm seemed to be over. Then the power went out. It seems that the generator that powers this area used natural gas which was piped in through a pipeline that ran through a wadi. When the wadi flooded, the pipeline broke, and cut off the supply of fuel for the power station. That took 48 hours to repair. We had just checked into a hotel when we came back to get clothes, and saw that the power was back on. A couple of nights make you appreciate air conditioning all the more.

More serious than the electrical outage is the water outage. Water has still not yet been restored. Fortunately we have a stockpile in that we have a water tank on our roof. As soon as we learned that the tank was not being refilled, we took water conservation measures, and still have about 2/3 of a tank. There are rumours that trucks belonging to have been mobbed and others are receiving police escorts. Since initially writing tis, the water has come on for a while and then been turned off so another district can get water.

The infrastructure of the city on all levels took a massive hit. This included the communications infrastructure. In the aftermath of the storm, the phone network went down. At our house it was out for two days. The GSM (cell phone) network was iffy at best. This meant that the school had a hard job communicating with the staff. Not to mention the problem with cell phone batteries dying. With electricity still out at school, and our mail server on campus, communications between the school and wider community are not where need to be. One of my jobs over the next few days is to start looking at some ways to address this issue.

Lessons learned: Two post hurricane stressors were lack of cash as phones and therefore ATM’s were down. Next hurricane, I’m going to make sure I stock up on some cash before hand. Also the half tank of gas in the car was a stressor. I’ll make sure it is full. We had only one cell phone as my Treo suffered an unfortunate accident the week before, and we were constantly switching SIM cards. It might be good to have at least the same number of cell phones as the number of SIM cards in the future. Also good to have is a car charger for the cell phone. Other than that the stocking up with water and flashlights worked out well. Once power is back on at school, I’ll need to start unpacking the lessons learned on the school side. One thing I need to learn about is the difference between a hurricane, cyclone and typhoon. My current theory is that it has to do with which ocean spans them; hurricanes in the Atlantic, typhoons in the Pacific and Cyclones in the Indian. That is just a working theory for now.

1 comment:

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