Weather Service urges public to report all weather related incidents
A call has been made to the local media to encourage residents to report any weather related incidents — not just during heavy storms and cyclones — to the National Weather Service Office in Tafuna and TEMCO. There is also a push for more public awareness regarding “rip currents” during dangerous surf.
The requests were made during Wednesday’s ‘Pre 2013-2014 Hurricane Season Coordination Workshop’ for the local media, organized by the local Department of Homeland Security (ASDHS) and the National Weather Service office.
Forecaster Carol Baqui explained that data is needed by the Weather Service not just during cyclone season but also during heavy rains — when flash flood advisories are issued. Additionally, there are advisories issued for high surf, because “we have mariners, we have people who go out swimming and participating in recreational activities.”
She also said one thing lacking in the territory is “more reporting by our community as a whole” regarding incidents related to weather issues, such flooding, landslides and rockslides.
“So if you can stress to the community to report... anything that is weather related that can help us issue some kind of statement or some kind of warning,” she told those present, adding the example of a waterspout which occurred off Leone's coastline some two years ago that was later reported to the weather service. “If we had received such information early, that would have prompted the issuance of a weather notice right away.”
Baqui quickly pointed out that while waterspouts (or tornados overwater) are rare in the territory, they have occurred, and they are asking the community to report to either the Weather Service office or the Emergency Operations Center these types of weather related incidents.
Asked if such report of incidents are considered important data, the weather forcaster replied, “definitely” because there are researchers, students and others calling for information and all of this information is made available online.
These data and records are “stored in what we call ‘storm data’ so that people can look back at them as to what happened before,” she said.
Weather Service forecaster Elinor Lutu-McMoore added, they can only see so much out of their office window regarding what is happening outside.
“Whereas we have residents on the other side of the mountain, and everywhere else, and any reports that comes in — not just during hurricanes or heavy rain — anything that can impact life and property, we really appreciate any report,” she said.
It was noted by a media representative that this information — of the community reporting incidents — allows local officials to “identify the problem spots” in the territory, a point that was echoed by Baqui and Lutu-McMoore along with ASDHS officials in attendance.
ASDHS outreach coordinator, Faletoa Ulufale agreed that the public reporting of incidents also assists TEMCO, who then send out a team to conduct an assessment and file a report. He said the report determines and justifies risk areas in the territory when it comes to reporting information back to the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Also at the workshop, Baqui said she would like to see the media be more involved in getting the message out when it comes to the danger of “rip currents”, which are part of an awareness and outreach program by the National Oceania and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
She says there should be more information and awareness about rip currents, as the Weather Service office has noticed that even when there are advisories about weather conditions affecting the ocean, people are still out in the water — and that is dangerous when there are rip currents where people may be swimming.
She asked that media awareness include information on what to do if people are caught in a “rip current” — which is a leading surf hazard for all beach goers.
According to NOAA, if you find yourself caught in a rip current, swim parallel to the shoreline — in other words, swim in a direction which follows the shoreline. Eventually, you will be out of the current, and then you can swim toward the shore.
More information is available on www.ripcurrents.noaa.gov
Samoa News should point out that whenever the weather service issues a surf hazard notice, it also includes the impact of “rip currents” to anyone in the ocean.
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