Critics hit out

WE can’t please everybody, says Fiji Meteorological Service director Ravind Kumar.

He made the comment in reference to criticisms from some people across the country about the way warnings were issued in relation to Severe Tropical Cyclone Keni.

Some tourism industry stakeholders raised concerns that weather bulletins were at odds with the actual weather on the ground.

Farmers in some areas said the warnings issued by the Nadi Weather Office were accurate and helped them prepare well while others said they were given too early and resulted in complacency.

Some people criticised the disruptions to business caused by early warnings.

Former meteorologist Dr Sushil Sharma said the forecasting was overdone and the warning was prolonged.

“Especially when the system was just cloud clusters over Vanuatu and then they mentioned it was forming to the west when it wasn’t part of the cyclone — it was part of another system,” he said.

“Something thousands of kilometres away is never used to issue a forecast.

“We do not talk about it unless it is impending, meaning it is 36 to 48 hours away.

“In my view, the Nadi Weather Office over-excited the general public.

“Even with divulging the name of the cyclone, people were talking about it everywhere.

“There was so much information out there where they were talking about a storm and then a hurricane and then it was Category 2 and so on.”

“There were also issues with referencing areas when they spoke about Nadi and Viwa and Ono-i-Lau and Kadavu because people get confused with that.”

Mr Kumar said Dr Sharma was entitled to his views, but he could be out of touch with modern meteorological practices.

“He can make comments but he is not an operational meteorologist and may be out of touch in terms of how things have evolved from when he was a meteorologist,” he said.

“We are not doing the three-day or 48 to 72 hour warnings or advisories. People are educated and they want longer lead times for planning and other things.

“What I am trying to do is that when we see things are going to happen, I put it out there. The whole world is going to early warning, five to seven days and even more.

“It is better to be forewarned and to be given enough time to prepare then to be caught off-guard.

“If we had given three days advance notice, people would say it was not sufficient. So what should the weather office do? Which cross-section of the people do we satisfy? We can’t please everyone. Preparedness is about getting early warnings and in this case warning was given between five to seven days ahead.

“And in terms of TC Keni, we were building up to towards this day (yesterday). I understand there was a delay in terms of timing, but people must remember that we are dealing with natural systems.

“We do forecast, but we cannot tell you that this system will come in at this time or not. We have seen in the past how tropical cyclones behave when they come close to land.

“They behave very weirdly and erratically, they can go across the islands, they can go up or move down.

“And TC Keni was a good example of this. This cyclone was building and everything was in favour of it coming down towards us but only God knows what happened that caused it to loop.

“It took another 24 hours and that’s beyond anybody’s control.”

“However, in saying that, it is good that people are making comments or raising their views so we can discuss this and make our services better.”

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