Thursday, July 28, 2011

Obligatory Flood post

It seems too early yet to have a strong opinion, as a layman, on what the flooding and resulting deaths and property damage means.  Newspaper articles try to connect the weather to global warming and the damages to negligence or malfeasance by the Korean Meteorological Administration:  I don't know.  I do know the destruction was terrible but not how it relates to larger issues.

I am currently in Gangwondo and inconvenienced by the incredible rains, but my life and belongings have not at all been threatened.  In this, I am very lucky, compared to the people in Seoul, Chuncheon and elsewhere in Gangwon and Kyeonggi Provinces.

From the Dong-A:
Safety standards for flooding should be urgently raised. Unexpected heavy rain can fall at any time, so drainage ways, underground water storage systems and levees should be built in areas vulnerable to floods. Existing flood prevention facilities are ineffective against torrential rain because they were designed based on standards of the past. Accuracy of weather forecasts and public awareness of the danger of flooding should also be raised. The landslide in Chuncheon is akin to a manmade disaster. The Korea Meteorological Administration’s weather forecast was incorrect and residents in the affected areas were not evacuated though houses were deluged due to blocked drainage ways an hour before the accident. In Seoul, evacuation orders were repeatedly issued for people near Cheonggye Stream Monday night amid the forecast of regional torrential rain, but most of the people along the stream remained.
I remember the typhoon flood in July, 1998, almost exactly 13 years ago, that drowned many people camping on the banks of a mountain-fed river in Chilisan.  They were camping in places where camping was forbidden.  I haven't heard enough yet to say for sure that the Chuncheon deaths were due to any kind of malfeasance.

From The Hanky:
On the morning of July 27, an automatic weather station in Seoul’s Gwanak District measured 110.5mm of rain per hour (4.4 inches per hour), although this was not included in the Korea Meteorological Administration’s (KMA) official statistics.
Such powerful banks of rain clouds normally pass by in a few hours. This time, however, a cold anticyclone near Russia’s Sakhalin blocked their way. As this configuration of air pressure persists, heavy rain continues to fall.

In South Korea, the pattern of a monsoon season followed by a period of sweltering weather is being broken. Even after the monsoon front dies out, heavy and localized downpours, like the current one, resulting from atmospheric instability continue until September. There is no longer a long-term forecast of when the monsoon will begin and end.
The first paragraph of the Hanky's report reinforces the claim of the Dong-A article that some of the damage and deaths could have been prevented.  Why didn't the KMA report the weather correctly?

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