Bracing for ‘Urduja’

By Jose Santino S. Bunachita, Morexette Marie B. Erram, Nestle L. Semilla, Steffi Kyle Nolido |December 13,2017 - 11:19 PM

A house owner voluntarily demolishes his house after the national government starts clearing the riverbank of Mahiga Creek in Barangay Mabolo, Cebu City on Wednesday, Dec. 13, 2017, to give way to a three-meter easement area, as the government begins rehabilitating the heavily silted and flood-prone creek.
CDN PHOTO/JUNJIE MENDOZA

 

Even if Tropical Storm Urduja will not directly hit Cebu, disaster officials from various local government units (LGU) here have started preparing for the weather disturbance and have cautioned the public over possible flash floods and landslides.

This is because Cebu, particularly Metro Cebu and the northern portion of the province, is within the 350-kilometer diameter path of Urduja.

“Due to its wide diameter, moderate to heavy rains will be experienced in Metro Cebu and northern Cebu, and it will prevail until Saturday or Sunday until the storm finally leaves the Philippine Area of Responsibility (PAR),” said Jomar Eclerino, weather specialist of the Mactan Bureau of the Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa).

Eclerino also said that either today or tomorrow, the areas within Urduja’s outer band will experience heavy rains, with rainfall at an average rate of 30 millimeters per hour.

“Eastern Visayas is already on yellow alert, which means they are now experiencing rainfall with a rate of 7.5 millimeters to 15 millimeters per hour.

But here in Cebu, we haven’t issued any color-coded rainfall warning yet, since we’re monitoring the situation,” he told Cebu Daily News yesterday.

Data from Pagasa showed that as of 5 p.m. yesterday, the storm’s eye was located 395 km east of Guiuan, Eastern Samar. Urduja, which was moving in a northwest direction with a speed of seven kilometers per hour, was packing winds of up to 65 kph.

Urduja, the 21st major weather disturbance to enter the country this year, was projected to make landfall in Northern Samar this Friday evening.

“But there’s also the possibility for the storm to change its track, and will make landfall in Sorsogon City of Sorsogon province,” said Dr. Esperanza Cayanan, chief of Pagasa’s weather division.

Pagasa also hoisted yesterday storm signal No.1 over the entire Eastern Samar province, with projected winds of up to 60 kph going to be experienced in the area by today.

On the other hand, Pagasa-Visayas Director Oscar Tabada said in an interview with ABS-CBN Central Visayas that Pagasa-Mactan was having difficulties monitoring Urduja, especially on the amount of rainfall it is expected to bring to Cebu, after the software that runs their Doppler Radar malfunctioned yesterday.

Eclerino said they were now relying on the two other Doppler Radars located in Iloilo City and Guiuan, Eastern Samar to monitor the path of Urduja.

“The radar here in Mactan is currently undergoing repairs, but we have back ups in Iloilo City and in Guiuan at Eastern Samar,” he said.

Blue alert

As part of the preparation for the entry of the storm, Pagasa-Mactan called to a meeting yesterday the members of the Central Visayas Regional Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (RDRRMC) to advise local disaster teams on the path taken by Urduja and to alert local chief executives in Cebu on the need to suspend classes in the event the rain would not cease.

Cebu City and the town of Daanbantayan in northern Cebu are also now on blue alert as Urduja moves closer to Central Visayas.

According to Cebu City Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office (CCDRRMO) head Nagiel Bañacia, they have been on heightened alert since yesterday afternoon following the RDRRMC meeting, which was also attended by officials from the Office of the Civil Defense in Central Visayas (OCD-7).

“Being on blue alert means our personnel are now on standby for any eventuality. We have activated our disaster councils,” he said.

He said City Hall’s heavy equipment have been inventoried and the emergency response equipment were prepositioned and placed on standby to respond to emergencies, especially in landslide-prone mountain barangays.

It was Pagasa that advised local disaster teams to be on blue alert, he added.

“This is until the tropical storm will be out of PAR, or if Pagasa already lowers the warning signal,” said Bañacia.

He also urged the barangays to activate their local disaster councils and to monitor their areas, especially those identified as hazard-prone, for any incident.

Lani Dublin, chief officer of the Municipal Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office (MDRRMO) of Daanbantayan, told CDN in a separate phone interview that they have activated their early warning system as preparations for possible evacuation or rescue operation of residents in flood-prone areas.

“We have experienced occasional heavy rains starting Wednesday afternoon, and our early warning signal is already running so that when our counterparts in the barangay level will give us an update of their situation, we can send warnings by text blasts to everyone,” said Dublin.

He added that the Emergency Response Team of each of the 20 barangays in Daanbantayan are on standby 24/7 in case any incident arises from the bad weather.

Postpone Christmas parties?

Urduja is the first storm to enter the Philippines this December, just as the people, particularly workers in government and private companies, are holding Christmas parties.

Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office (PDRRMO) chief Baltazar Tribunalo Jr. suggested that it would be wise for these organizations or companies to postpone their Christmas parties until the storm passes, to keep everyone safe.

“We must be extremely careful and vigilant on our surroundings, especially now that Christmas parties are being celebrated everywhere. If you think the rain will spoil your party because it has not stopped, it would be better to postpone it,” said Tribunalo.

He also agreed on giving mayors in Cebu province the discretion to suspend classes and work if their areas have experienced strong winds and incessant rains.

“Let’s localize the suspension of classes, and we should not wait for directives coming from Cebu Gov. Hilario Davide III. The best people to declare suspension of classes are the key officials in our LGUs,” he added.

On the other hand, the PDRRMO has directed their counterparts in the towns and cities to stay on full alert, and monitor areas prone to landslides and flash floods 24/7.

Boljoon: Ready for evacuation

Meanwhile, in Boljoon town of southeastern Cebu, the MDRRMO is also preparing to initiate evacuation especially that the water level of Lusopan River has yet to return to normal since the artificial dam that was formed after a landslide struck on October 27 still stored a huge volume of water that could result to flash flood.

“Clearing operations are still ongoing at the first dam but the volume of water has remained at 230,000 cubic meters due to the heavy rains we experienced in the past three days. This is why we’re also tracking Urduja’s path even if southern Cebu is already outside of its outerbands,” said Boljoon MDRRMO acting chief Eutemio Ternate.

PCG: No gale warning in CV

Both Pagasa-Mactan and PDRRMO have also recommended to prohibit small sea vessels, especially those owned by fishers, from sailing due to possible rough seas around Cebu.

However, the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) in Cebu has not issued any advisory to ground small sea vessels in Central Visayas.

PCG-Cebu Station officer-in-charge for operations, Rudolph Alain Benoliaro, said that as of Wednesday, the PCG Action Center issued the gale warning only for Northern and Eastern Samar provinces, both in Eastern Visayas.

“As of (yesterday) sa Samar ra naa then wala tay gale warning diri sa Central Visayas (As of yesterday, we do not have a gale warning here in Central Visayas, only in Samar),” Benolirao said.

“There might be moderate to rough seas because of the tropical depression. Pero dili g’yud siya ingon nga makabalda og biyahe (But it does not mean it can cancel trips),” he added.

However, Benolirao advised vessel owners, both small and larger ones, to take safety precautions especially if they think they cannot travel because of the weather.

Pagasa issued yesterday afternoon a gale warning advisory on the seaboards of Northern Luzon, and the eastern seaboard of Central Luzon and Southern Luzon. They also hoisted the same warning on the eastern coasts of Northern Samar and Eastern Samar.

Seas placed under the gale warning have winds up to 63 kilometers per hour, and waves reaching a height of 4.5 meters.

As of Wednesday afternoon, no single trip was canceled in Central Visayas. /With Inquirer.net

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