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The Day Basyang And PAGASA Let Us Down

July 15, 2010

Two thoughts misled me.

Nah, a storm nicknamed after my childhood story-teller Lola Basyang wouldn’t hurt a fly.

Besides, the weather bureau had only storm signal number 1 up over Metro Manila by mid-evening of Tuesday and even though it was churning center winds in excess of 100 kilometers per hour, my layman’s learnings from years in the newsroom told me that a worst case scenario would place the Metro under signal number 2.

Waking up to howling winds at 1:00 a.m. on Wednesday, the 14th gave me the realization that I was wrong and PAGASA had dropped the ball yet again.

Moments later the light went out.

No worry, I said to myself.

Mebbe  MERALCO simply cut the power as a precaution and would bring it back as soon as Basyang sped away.

Wrong again.

T’was the beginning of 23 excruciating hours of being in darkness about the darkness.

So now we’re hearing that Basyang (international codename ‘Conson’) has left at least 23 dead and 59 missing in her wake plus millions upon millions in destroyed public and private property.

The MODIS instrument aboard NASA’s Aqua satellite captured a visible image of Typhoon Conson at 04:55 UTC (12:55 a.m. EDT/12:55 p.m. local Asia/Manila Time) on July 13 during its landfall in the northern Philippines.
Credit: NASA Goddard/MODIS Rapid Response Team

This infrared image from the AIRS instrument on NASA’s Aqua satellite at 4:53 UTC (12:53 a.m. EDT) shows strong convection and high, cold thunderstorm cloud tops (purple). Note that the northern Philippines are covered by the eastern half of the storm, as its center is already moving into the South China Sea.
Credit: NASA/JPL, Ed Olsen
And you know what else sounds familiar?

PASAGA moaning and groaning that it lacks the right weather prediction gear and that it needs several billions to do its job.

Can’t we simply get that over and done with???

These are stills from scenes filmed by an intrepid ABS-CBN news crew as Basyang’s eye was over Infanta town in Quezin province:

Sitting in darkness, these questions also came to this writer:

1.    Given how government allots gazillions of taxpayer money for roads, bridges, school buildings and what not, how about pouring the NEEDED MONEY into our weather watch/prediction know-how?
2.    Given how MERALCO consistently overcharges us, can’t it begin putting our power lines safely below ground? Or is this luxury reserved only for ‘gated villages’?
3.    Can’t the broadcasting networks tandem with the National Grid Corporation and MERALCO  configure a power outage and restoration status map to give us an accurate sense of what’s happening?

Ok, time for coffee.

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