Friday 21 November 2014

PUB ready to tackle looming threat of flash floods

By Audrey Tan, The Straits Times, 20 Nov 2014

SINGAPORE has the infrastructure in place to minimise disruption from flash floods during the oncoming north-east monsoon season, said PUB, the national water agency, yesterday.

However, it warned that these may not be able to "cater to the most extreme of storms".

The authority said that, as of Monday, there have been 14 flash flood days this year.

More could occur in the final two months of the year - traditionally the wettest for the Republic.

There were 36 flash flood days last year, up from 23 in 2011, and experts said causes could include increased urbanisation and climate change.

Assistant Professor Winston Chow of the National University of Singapore's geography department said: "The increasing frequency of extreme weather events, such as intense rain or droughts, is consistent with other scientists' observations on climate change."

Mr Ridzuan Ismail, PUB's director of catchment and waterways, said the growth of urban areas in Singapore has led to more rainwater in developed areas flowing into drainage canals.

However, the agency said yesterday that it has adopted a suite of measures to address flood risks.

It has completed 163 drainage projects over the past three years at locations such as Toh Tuck Road and Rochor Canal.

About 133 drainage projects are currently under way, and 23 more will be undertaken by next year.

PUB told The Straits Times that it requires drains to be open in low-lying areas at risk of flooding. In areas where there are space constraints, drains could be closed and water is let in through inlets instead.

The latter "have the advantage of doubling up as a footpath", and PUB said it ensures both types of drains are "adequately sized".

Mr Chong Kee Sen, president of The Institution of Engineers, Singapore, said: "As long as adequate drainage paths are designed to lead rainwater into the drain quickly and effectively, there is no significant difference between covered drains and drains with grille tops."

PUB encourages building owners to play a role in protecting their properties against floods.

Its Code of Practice on Surface Water Drainage, for instance, requires developers to include features that retain or slow down rainwater.

The agency lists 48 flood-prone areas and 55 flooding hot spots on its website.

Flood-prone areas are low-lying places with a history of flooding, while hot spots are areas that are not low-lying but have experienced flash floods.

The Meteorological Service Singapore (MSS) warned on Tuesday that rainfall this month and next will be about 20 per cent above the long-term average of 257mm and 288mm respectively. The first half of this month has already been wetter than usual, with 188mm of rainfall recorded so far.

The MSS also expects short, moderate to heavy thundery showers during afternoons and evenings over the next two months, as the annual north-east monsoon season takes hold. It added: "Heavy rain coinciding with high tides could lead to localised flash floods in low-lying areas."

Over 2,400 evacuated in flood-hit Terengganu
Officials open 17 relief centres there; residents told to expect more rain
The Straits Times, 20 Nov 2014

KUALA TERENGGANU - More than 2,400 people have been evacuated from their homes, as floods inundated the state of Terengganu following heavy rain this week.

The capital city Kuala Terengganu was the worst affected, with more than 1,500 evacuees from 400 displaced families, the New Straits Times reported yesterday.

Officials have opened 17 relief centres around the state to deal with the floods, which regularly affect Malaysia's east coast during the year-end monsoon season.

The affected areas in Terengganu are under 0.5m to 1m of water, but all roads remain open, The Star reported.

In Kuala Nerus, 45 families from Taman Desa Tanjung Damai were forced to evacuate their homes when the waters rose on Tuesday, flooding the entrances to their houses up to knee level.

Ms Zurawati Abdullah, 40, said she was shocked to see the water when she came home from work.

"My husband and I quickly moved out important belongings to a higher level to prevent damage," she was quoted as saying by Bernama.

Elsewhere, reports say that 25 people from five families in Kelantan were also evacuated on Tuesday night due to floods.

The floods are beginning just as residents in the east coast have been advised to brace themselves for wet weather and strong winds in the coming months.

The Malaysian Meteorological Department (MMD) said Kelantan, Terengganu, Pahang and Johor would experience heavy rainfall lasting for days, The Star reported yesterday.

"The north-east monsoon rain will start from Kelantan and Terengganu and shift south to Pahang and Johor in December and January," the MMD said in a statement.

"Sabah and Sarawak will experience heavy rainfall in January and February."

People in the east coast and Sarawak will also face rough seas and strong winds, it said.

If the monsoon surge is strong, heavy rain will also be expected in Kedah, Perak, Selangor, Kuala Lumpur, Negeri Sembilan and Malacca.

The rainy north-east monsoon season began on Nov 7 and is expected to end in March next year.

The MMD said, however, that the rainfall levels are expected to be similar to those in previous years.

It added that low-lying areas and riverbanks, which were flooded during the previous monsoon seasons, are likely to be flooded again.

The Welfare Department's director-general Noraini Hashim said it had ensured sufficient stocks of items needed to help flood victims at its distribution centres.

No end to New York's Arctic chill yet
Snow accumulation expected to exceed 2m in some areas till the weekend
The Straits Times, 21 Nov 2014

NEW YORK- Americans smothered in mountains of snow were bracing themselves for more of the white stuff today after a historic blizzard hit the north-east, leaving scores of motorists stranded, cancelling flights and killing at least eight people.

Accumulations could reach more than 2m in some areas east and south-east of Buffalo, in northern New York state, before stopping tomorrow, when temperatures will start to rise along with the risk of flooding.

That would add up to a year's accumulation of snow or even more in just two days, Erie County executive Mark Poloncarz told reporters. The deadly burst, named Winter Storm Knife, could prompt a federal disaster declaration, he said.

The Arctic blast will keep temperatures below normal until the weekend, and all 50 states, including normally balmy Florida, recorded below freezing temperatures on Tuesday, the National Weather Service said.

Mr Dave Zaff, a meteorologist from the National Weather Service, said areas east and south-east of Buffalo have already received upwards of 1.5m of snow.

"That is somewhat of an extreme event," he said. "From a forecast standpoint, it will be historic."

At least 463 ploughs, 81 front-end loaders and 1,177 crew members were converging on the area, where the snow had to be dug rather than ploughed because it was so heavy, New York governor Andrew Cuomo said.

Photographs posted on Twitter showed houses buried to the eaves and cars covered on highways. Schools closed and mail delivery ground to a halt.

"When we add up all the damage and all the cost, I think it's going to be a very large amount of money," Mr Cuomo said yesterday.

At least six people died in the storm in New York state, including three whose deaths were blamed on heart attacks, according to officials. US media reported two other deaths in the states of New Hampshire and Michigan.

The US National Guard was called in to assist military Humvee vehicles after New York's transportation department worked through the night to rescue stranded motorists and take people to shelters.

One young woman in Buffalo tweeting from @SpecialCassie said her father had finally made it home after spending nearly 40 hours stuck in a car on the throughway. "Snow to his shoulders, had to climb a tree to get out," she wrote.

In Lancaster, New York, where more than 1.5m of snow fell in less than 24 hours, the streets looked like a stage set for a dystopian movie where snow has claimed dominion over mankind.

Ms Paige Marki, 18, who works at a gas station, struggled on Wednesday morning to clear more than 1.2m of snow piled on her car. She said at least 20 people were stranded at a petrol station.

"When we were walking back it was like hell," she said. "It was terrible. You couldn't see a thing in front of you. We just walked with our heads down the whole time."

Mr David Church, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Cheektowaga, said that temperatures will moderate into the low teens this weekend.

"Our next concern will be thinking about any flooding once the snow starts to melt," he said. "We may be dealing with the aftermath of this for a while."


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