Friday, October 18, 2013
I’ve been a little more than three years in this department and have handled a couple of cyclones (Jal, Thane and Nilam) but hadn’t felt so nervous or tense as I was last week when ‘Phailin’ was on its way towards the State. I spent a hectic week at the office making and taking calls from so many people, attending meetings called by the Chief Secretary, the Minister and also the Chief Minister, preparing notes for these meetings which made me more tense than I usually am even on normal days. Another thing was that due to Dasara festival we had three days of holidays in a row and all those three days I was in the office.
Anyway, whenever there is a major weather event like a depression or a cyclone developing in the sea surrounding the country, the India Meteorological Department or the IMD in short, sends bulletins regarding the formation, movement, intensity, and other information to the States likely to be affected. On October, 8th we got the first IMD bulletin about a weather system developing in the Bay of Bengal and over the next few days the bulletins became more frequent as the low pressure system developed into a ‘very severe cyclonic storm’ and the bulletins were upgraded from Orange to Red category indicating danger. With the increasing frequency of the bulletins of the IMD and the forecast therein which said the cyclone ‘Phailin’ would most likely hit the coast between our State and Odisha our nervousness increased. We warned everyone we could and took all measures possible to face the cyclone. Even the Prime Minister’s office was monitoring the cyclone ‘Phailin’ which had by then played out by the media which was a good thing because people on the coast took precautions. In AP 1.3 lakh people were evacuated in Srikakulam, Vizianagaram and Visakhapatnam districts. We had two IAF helicopters on standby. There were five columns of the Army on way to these districts to help out in case the State’s resources weren’t enough. We had the NDRF too.
However, much to everyone's relief, Phailin did not cause much damage as feared and resulted in one unfortunate death and also some loss to crops like coconut, cashewnut, vegetables in Srikakulam district only. Now the relief work going on and also the process of identifying who lost what and suffered what damage so that it can be compensated. For once, everyone appreciated the Government, the IMD and others. It is the Collectors in the districts who have to be appreciated because they were on the field and took decisions that saved lives and also property. The Collector of Ganjam did not sleep for four days. IMD should get all the credit and appreciation for standing its ground with its prediction that was proved right ultimately. Other Western meteorological agencies created unnecessary panic with their wrong predictions and I am proud that for once IMD stumped them.