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  Today Online 13 Jan 07
Wet spell causes landslide, traffic snarls
Sheralyn Tay

The Straits Times 13 Jan 07
Thursday downpour: Why no alert
There was no strong indication of extreme weather, says weatherman
By T. Rajan

Straits Times Forum 13 Jan 07
Work to continue on drainage improvements
Letter from Yap Kheng Guan Director, Drainage PUB

Channel NewsAsia 12 Jan 07
Persistent rain causes landslide, disrupts business operations
By Wong Mun Wai

SINGAPORE: Continuous heavy rain from Thursday night caused several problems around certain areas of Singapore, including a landslide and the disruption of business operations.

From midnight Thursday to 6pm Friday, 239 millimetres of rain fell in the northern part of Singapore - the highest amount so far. The monthly average for January is 241 millimetres.

The rain caused a landslide near Jalan Anak Bukit on a slip road heading towards the Pan Island Expressway, resulting in the road's closure until further notice.

And along Thomson Road, businesses have been bracing for a busy period since Thursday night, removing plants from the nurseries. They were alerted when sensors went off warning of critical high water levels in the nearby drains.

Lim Woan Hui, FarEastFlora's business manager, said: "After the overflow of water in the evening, we came back a few times, (between) 9pm and 9:30pm, because we received some alert from PUB... We came back to check and it's still raining heavily until now."

The rain continued throughout Friday. The amount of rain recorded at the MacRitchie Reservoir station from 2pm on Thursday to 2pm on Friday was 216.7 millimetres, which was 90 percent of the average amount for the whole of January.

The weatherman says rain is expected to last for a few more days. - CNA/ir

The Straits Times 13 Jan 07
Thursday downpour: Why no alert
There was no strong indication of extreme weather, says weatherman
By T. Rajan

THE weatherman did not sound a warning on Thursday's heavy rainfall because there was little indication that such a bad spell of weather was on its way here.

Even though storm clouds had clearly gathered over Johor earlier in the day and Malaysia had issued a flood alert for Wednesday, Singapore's National Environment Agency (NEA) issued a 'heavy rain warning' only at 7pm on Thursday.

On Thursday afternoon, Singapore was lashed by the heaviest rains since last month's storms, resulting in a flash flood in Thomson Road later that day. In the five hours from 1.30pm to 6.30pm, 103mm of rain fell - almost 43 per cent of the average 241mm rainfall for the entire month of January.

An NEA spokesman said its Meteorological Service issued its 7pm warning on Thursday 'as soon as the set criteria were met'. "The criteria includes factors like the movement of the rain clouds and the intensity of the rain.'

Explaining why there was no alert in the days before the latest rainy spell, senior meteorological officer Mah King Kheong said: 'Weather prediction in the tropics is difficult because weather patterns in the equator change very quickly.'

Although computer models can predict what the weather will be like in the next one or two days, sudden changes in weather are not easy to determine in advance, said Mr Mah. As a result, this latest spell of bad weather did not show up in its earlier predictions.

On average, the NEA said the Meteorological Service achieves a 70 to 80 per cent accuracy for its one- to two-day forecasts.

On Thursday, however, the Public Utilities Board had quickly deployed its ground crew to the Thomson Road area by 4pm to maintain a flood watch. The NEA maintained that it was not caught flat-footed when heavy rains began on Thursday afternoon, long before it issued a heavy rain alert.

It pointed to its weather forecast on its website, which forecast 'periods of showers' for Thursday and beyond. This was an accurate forecast, Mr Mah told The Straits Times.

'We predicted periods of showers which would turn heavy at times. As predicted, the rains stopped for five to 30 mins before resuming,' he said.

The NEA also said it sent out an alert at around 7pm on Thursday to the television and radio stations warning of heavy rains. Flood warnings in Johor were also on the NEA's radar, it said, and it monitored the situation before issuing the alerts for heavy rains that night.

Yesterday's highest rainfall, recorded in northern Singapore from 12am to 7pm, was 260.2 mm - the highest since last month's record rainfall of 366 mm for a day, on Dec 19.

Experts, like National University of Singapore geographer, Associate Professor David Higgitt, explained that though heavy rains do occur at this time of year, the weather in recent days has been 'extreme'.

Agreeing with the Meteorological Service, he said that where it will rain and how heavy these rains will be can be difficult to predict during the monsoon season.

He said: 'It can be really difficult to predict whether Singapore will be directly in the path of the rains or not, as the monsoon winds can go in any direction and also because Singapore is relatively small.'

Today Online 13 Jan 07
Wet spell causes landslide, traffic snarls
Sheralyn Tay

It created havoc on the highways and sent nursery owners scuttling in alarm as rising waters reached a critical level.

The continuous downpour over Thursday and Friday may not have matched last month's torrential levels it measured 216.7mm over a 24-hour period, compared to the Dec 28 peak of 765.9 mm but it caused or added to traffic snarls on three expressways and a major road.

Cars were backed up on Upper Bukit Timah Road after a landslide along Jalan Anak Bukit forced the diversion of traffic from the slip-road to the Pan Island Expressway. The Land Transport Authority is assessing the slope condition and will stabilise the area. Motorists are meanwhile advised to use alternative routes such as Dairy Farm Road and Eng Neo Avenue.

Traffic was also bumper-to-bumper along the East Coast Parkway, from Tanjong Rhu to the Prince Edward Road exit, because of a tree that fell at about 1pm. It was removed at 8.30pm.

Also just after 1pm, along the Ayer Rajah Expressway opposite the National University of Singapore, a trailer truck ran into the central divider, blocking the extreme right lane. One passenger was sent to hospital with minor injuries, said a police spokesperson.

Meanwhile, at the Central Expressway, about 50m before the Balestier Road exit, traffic was stalled by a car that burst into flames. It was removed at about 2.35pm. No injuries were reported.

For the nurseries at Thomson Road, there were worrying echoes of last month's floods which caused millions of dollars in damage. But though there was intermittent flooding prompting a frantic rush each time the waters rose it was comparatively minor.

The Public Utilities Board (PUB), which has been monitoring the area since flood warnings were triggered on Wednesday, warned the eight nurseries at 1pm on Friday when the water in the canal reached a "critical level". The car park area outside Goodwood Florist and Candy Greenhouse and Flowers was submerged but the waters subsided after about 15 minutes. "PUB staff and contractors were on site to assist the nurseries," said the PUB.

Ms Sharon Goh of Candy Greenhouse and Flowers took things in her stride. "It's gone up and down about four times today," she told Today at about 5pm on Friday. "Every time the water rises, every one ban ah, ban ah ('moves' in Mandarin) and then after that we are in operation again."

Straits Times Forum 13 Jan 07
Work to continue on drainage improvements
Letter from Yap Kheng Guan Director, Drainage PUB

PUB thanks Mr Thomas Lee Zhi Zhi and Mr Victor Gomez for their letters (ST, Jan 3 and 5). In times of exceptionally heavy rain, localised flash floods may still occur in low-lying areas.

The rain on Dec 19 was the third-highest 24-hour rainfall in 75 years, affecting the whole of Singapore. Despite this, only two areas were affected by floods, namely Joan Road/ Olive Road and Mandai Road/Nee Soon Road. PUB empathises with those affected by the floods, especially the nurseries along Thomson Road.

On Dec 23, PUB met the owners of the nurseries to see how to help them cope if there is another exceptionally heavy storm.

One of the measures was to install a water-level sensor which is currently being tried out in a few flood-prone areas. It will give advance warning when the water in the canal reaches a level that could lead to flooding.

PUB is committed to working on alleviating the situation in flood-prone areas. Drainage-improvement sche- mes, such as raising and regrading the level of low-lying roads and premises, widening and deepening drains, and clearing and prevention of chokes and obstructions, have been effective in reducing incidents of localised flash floods over the years.

For new developments, PUB works with developers to ensure comprehensive drainage infrastructure is put in place. For the Joan Road/Olive Road area, PUB will enlarge the drains.

In the longer term, the area is slated for redevelopment when the ground level will be raised and bigger drains built. PUB assures the public that we take each flood seriously and will continue to monitor and study such areas, working on solutions together with other government agencies.

We welcome feedback to our 24-hour hotline, 1800-284 6600.

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