Malaysians bracing for year-end floods

Sin Chew 30 Oct 13;

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 30 (Bernama) -- The flash floods that hit several west coast states in the Peninsula were the result of a heavy downfall attributed to the tail end of the Southwest monsoon.

The floods also marked the advent of the Northeast monsoon.

People in the Klang Valley as well as the southern parts of Perak are now experiencing rain everyday, a result of this 'transition period'.

In fact, some parts of Perak and Kedah, such as the districts of Manjong (in Perak) as well as Kepala Batas and Yan (in Kedah) are experiencing torrential rains and floods.

Though it is by no means an extraordinary phenomenon, the Northeast monsoon is expected to last for about five months from November until March, and the rains are expected to unleash their fury over the east coast states of Kelantan, Terengganu, Pahang and some parts in Johor.

So, are such floods imminent? That is a question that many ask around this time of the year.

Floods in Malaysia

Since 1920, Malaysia experienced a number of major floods such as the ones in 1926, 1963, 1965, 1967, 1969, 1971, 1973, 1979, 1983, 1988, 1993, 1998, 2005, 2006, 2007 and the latest being in 2011

The floods that hit Kuala Lumpur and several other states in 1971 left in their wake a trail of massive destruction of property, the losses pegged at RM200 million, apart from the 61 lives lost in the calamity.

But the floods in Johor in 2006-2007 wreaked maximum economic loss in the country's history, the figure standing at a stunning figure of more than RM1.5 billion.

The floods had caused massive damage to infrastructure including bridges and roads apart from agricultural farms as well as many business premises.

Some 110,000 people were displaced and had to seek shelter at flood evacuation centers statewide while 18 fatalities were recorded.

Weather forecasts are crucial

According to the Malaysian Meteorological Department's Weather Forecast Center Director Muhammad Helmi Abdullah, weather forecasts are dependent on phenomena like the El-Nino and La-Nina.

The El-Nino led to an exceptional hot and dry spell while La-Nina's effect was exactly the opposite.

This year, the country is only experiencing the minimum impact of these two phenomena, he told Bernama.

"No exceptionally high rainfall is expected during this year's Northeast Monsoon and the average rainfall will not be above 500mm," he says.

Muhammad Helmi explains that the floods usually occur due to several factors like storms, strong winds and exceptionally high tides.

"However, the amount of rainfall this year is expected to remain average and if floods do occur, then these will be the normal seasonal floods and not like the ones that hit the country in 2006/2007," he explains.

Downfall episodes

About four to five spells of rainfall are expected during this year's Northeast monsoon, beginning in early November and continuing until the end of March in 2014.

The rains will be due to the low pressure and a 'cyclone vortex' expected to occur near the Equator from November till January next year. This will cause strong winds in the South China Sea and West Pacific Ocean.

Both these winds will gather near the Peninsular of Malaysia, triggering heavy rains and huge waves in the east coast region, says Muhammad Helmi. From January to March next year, the wind will move towards Sabah and Sarawak.

He says the department will issue public warnings to enable the people to prepare to deal with the situation.

"The warnings will be issued four to five days before the expected heavy downfall, particularly to fishermen," he says.

He says the department utilizes 13 doppler radars to obtain accurate weather forecasts apart from using satellite pictures and weather monitoring cameras at all meteorological stations nationwide.