Saturday, October 1, 2011

Waiting for Quiel in Manila

As the typhoon passed through Manila we decided to drive around and see high water. Note to self, the radio network for taxi cabs is a great way of asking which places are having urban flooding. Marikina City probably had the biggest waters in the city because it is just above the floodway that diverts high flows to the inland lake. A mall's basement went underwater as well as a few parks. People were wading through water along a bridge. 

Last night, a second typhoon was expected to make landfall in the same place as the first. Here was the image at 5 am, from PAGASA (the national weather service). There's always an excitable awe when the first images of a well-defined storm eye arrive at the forecasters.  

 I was able to get down to the flood warning center and camped out until midnight, going between the flood forecasting area and the media center in the lobby. It's exciting for me to be embedded with forecasters during an actual flood event and hope to tell more later (the event is still going on).  

The atmosphere at the office last night reminded me of waiting at a hospital for a patient to come back from surgery. Lots of people waiting (such as camera crews for the media, or other assistants) with a sense of tense boredom, pacing, staring at the ceiling, clicking away on their mobiles. I wondered if it was worth it to bug the "nurses" for new information or if we just needed to wait for the next release. Like an emergency room, there is no window in to see the patient, only the occasional reporting of vital signs. Even these required some interpretation ("the hemoglobin levels are 8.0"... "7 gates of the dam are open"... is this good/bad/unusual?)   

In a sudden burst, a "doctor" would charge through with others in tow and the room would have to be cleared for an important meeting. With all the authority of a doctor, the undersecretary of the weather service (Yumul) thundered at a press briefing when asked "What's the worst case scenario?" -- “(The) worst case scenario is people will die if people will not heed (the warnings of) local authorities.” 

Next press briefing is in 10 minutes, for now we're still in limbo. 

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