No longer typhoon-free (Sunstar)

By Antonio L. Colina IV

 

DAVAO Region can no longer take pride in being typhoon-free. Typhoon Pablo on December 4, 2012 made sure of that, rendering thousands homeless and near penniless and almost 2,000 dead on its wake.

Flooding brought about by natural calamity, especially typhoons, is inevitable. However, there can always be the early warning devices.

It has been more than a year since Department of Science and Technology (DOST) launched the Nationwide Operational Assessment of Hazards, also known as Project Noah.

Erick Colmenares, science research specialist of DOST in Davao Region, said Project Noah was designed as a one-stop shop for weather updates where anyone can get real time information on incoming storms.

The information that comes out of its website is pooled from the state-of-the-art weather equipment installed at bridges, rivers, and other weather stations erected in several parts of the country.

“Kung naay bagyo makita didto asa agianan, chance of rain, tide levels (If there’s typhoon, we can track it. We can forecast chance of rain, tide levels),” he said. Davao Region, however, still needs other equipment like what is in Marikina where their staff can track flooding. Nothing like that is in place in Davao.

Project Noah was put in place in response to the mandate from President Benigno Aquino III to devise “a responsive program for disaster prevention and mitigation” in which the local government units (LGUs), or just about anybody, can use to get substantial information about weather disturbances.

In the noah.dost.gov.ph, it said that the mission of Project Noah is to “undertake disaster science research and development, advance the use of cutting edge technologies and recommend innovative information services in government’s disaster prevention and mitigation efforts.”

Colmenares said they have been working with the municipal and city governments for the installation of the equipment needed to make the wide-ranging components of Project Noah expand its coverage.

“Project Noah has so many components that basically help our LGUs,” he said of the water level monitoring sensors, automated weather stations, automated rain gauges and dopplers.

The water level sensors installed both in the rivers from upstream to downstream will analyze the quantity of water flowing during the rain and thus it can predict before the river overflows.

“Through Noah, makita nila ang water level so before pa magbaha, three hours lead time, three hours before magbaha maka-evacuate na sila (Through Project Noah, they can see the rising the water level before the flood giving them three hours lead time to evacuate),” he said.

In Davao City, at least six water level monitoring sensors and three automated rain gauges have been installed.

The water level monitoring sensors were placed at the Suwawan Bridge, Tamugan Bridge, Calinan Bridge, Mintal Bridge, Waan Bridge, and Matina Pangi Bridge.

While the automated rain gauges were installed in Davao River Talomo River, and Matina Pangi River.

In Davao Region, 25 water level monitoring sensors and automated rain gauges have been installed, but this is still way lower than the target for the year at 48. Now, DOST 11 is proposing another eight water level monitoring systems on top of the remaining uninstalled.

The problem, Colmenares added, is on the side of the LGUs. Not to say that they are not responsive enough to the program, but the government’s process of bidding sometimes makes it hard for the installation of the equipment.

“The LGUs contribution is the post, or the fence, necessary to secure the equipment. So, as to how fast we can install the equipment, depends upon them,” he said.

Info and Educ

DOST, Colmenares said, has been conducting an information and education drive to the local government units on how to make use of Project Noah as an effective tool on mitigating the impact of the calamities.

He said LGUs must understand how to use the tool so as warn constituents ahead of time and to lower the number of casualties and reduce property losses.

“It’s a big help. Remember Sendong where many died,” he said, after the DOST installed water level sensors, although Bukidnon was hit by Pablo, the people were not as affected.

“We placed the sensors somewhere in Bukidnon. Here came Pablo, there were no casualties,” he said, adding that they are looking at the same thing in Davao Region since December is fast approaching.

Project Noah mobile

Colmenares also encouraged the use of the mobile version of the Project Noah, which can be used in Android and iOS platforms.

“You can set it, for example, when the chance of rainfall reaches 50 percent, then it will notify you,” he said.

Mobile app developer, Rolly Rulete, who designed the Project Noah mobile on Android, said the mobile version retains almost all features found in the website.

“However, I added notification alerts for the “Probablity of Rain” data coming from climatex.ph (a component of Project NOAH). It also has offline support in which in the event of fluctuating or no internet connection, the last downloaded data will still be available. It will be very useful for disaster managers/coordinator, LGUs and other people who can use its data to warn their constituents,” he said.

Among the main features of the app are the map-view that will enable the visualization and interactive display of weather components such as satellites, doppler radars, contours, weather conditions, rain gauges, stream/river gauges, and tide levels.

This article was originally published in Sunstar Davao

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