Now people can understand storm surge warnings better with the new color-coded warning system launched during the Department of Science and Technology - Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration’s  (DOST-PAGASA) 150th anniversary celebration recently.

The new storm surge warning system, a shift from a general weather forecast to impact-based storm surge forecast and warning, stresses the threats posed by the coming storm surge and safety measures to be done by affected communities.

In this new warning system, green means no threat of storm surge.  Yellow alert, meanwhile, indicates a possible storm surge of of .5 to one meter.  People are advised stay away from the coast or beach.

Further, orange alarm means that storm surge of one to three meters is expected. All marine activities must be cancelled and evacuation must be carried out.

Finally, red indicates a coming storm surge greater than three meters that can cause severe damage to coastal and marine infrastructure.  In this scenario, communities need to be evacuated.

Ma. Cecilia A. Monteverde, OIC of Hydrometeorology, Tropical Meteorology and Instrument Research and Development Section of DOST-PAGASA, mentioned that the new warning system was developed after the experience in Haiyan (Yolanda).

She said that the agency was able to accurately forecast the track and intensity of the typhoon Yolanda and was also able to give reasonably accurate storm surge forecast.  Likewise, PAGASA was able to issue warnings beforehand.

However, the high death toll of Yolanda only shows the lack of understanding on the impact of storm surge threat.  She noted that most of those who died during the typhoon were swept away by the storm surge.

She explained that a two-feet storm surge is strong enough to sweep away a vehicle.

Monteverde added that green and yellow storm surge warnings will be incorporated in PAGASA’s severe weather bulletins.  In case of an orange or red storm surge warning, PAGASA will issue separate bulletins four times a day.

Likewise, DOST-PAGASA now adopts the super typhoon category in its public storm signal warnings to emphasize the impact of the weather hazards and elicit sense of urgency and action.

Under the current tropical cyclone classification of PAGASA, a tropical depression indicates a maximum sustained winds of 61 kph; tropical storm means wind speeds of 62-117 kph; typhoon means 118-220 kph; and super typhoon packs a maximum sustained winds of more than 220 kph.

150 years of dedicated service

Meanwhile, DOST Secretary Mario G. Montejo commended PAGASA for its commitment to move forward amidst numerous challenges in history during his opening speech in the 150th anniversary celebration.

He said that we can expect PAGASA to be “one-step ahead in the ever changing times.”  

Montejo added that DOST and PAGASA are moving toward technological self-reliance by improving our capacity in developing our own technology and human resources. He revealed DOST was able to develop its own weather sensors and technologies in the recent years.

The humble beginnings of the state weather bureau started in 1865 through the efforts of the Jesuits scholars in Ateneo Municipal de Manila.  In 1894, Under the Royal Decree of Spain it was officially established as an institution.  It was reorganized in 1901 and formally named as Weather Bureau under the administrative control of the Department of Interior. In 1972 the Bureau was renamed as PAGASA.  After transferring to various departments, PAGASA was finally transferred under the National Science and Technology Authority (now DOST) in 1984. (By Maria Luisa S. Lumioan, S&T Media Service DOST-STII)

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