MANILA - The government's Project NOAH is developing a storm surge warning system similar to typhoon signals being issued by state weather bureau PAGASA.
In November last year, a deadly storm surge wrought havoc on Tacloban City and coastal towns in Leyte and Samar.
The state weather bureau has been questioned for not giving an appropriate warning when it comes to storm surge.
Now, Project Noah has listed four different warning signs that will alert coastal communities about an impending storm surge.
SS1 or storm surge signal number 1: A water level surge as high as 2 meters or about 6 feet. Swimming and surfing will not be allowed, fishermen are advised to take precautions, and residents are advise to strengthen their houses.
SS2 or storm surge signal number 2: A water level surge as high as 3 meters or about 9 feet. Fishing is not allowed, and residents are advise to prepare for evacuation.
SS3 or storm surge signal number 3: A water level surge as high as 4 meters or about 12 feet. Residents are advised to evacuate to higher ground.
SS4 or storm surge signal number 4: A water level surge of 5 meters or about 15 feet or higher. Residents are strongly advised to evacuate.
The warning signal system is in its final stages of approval. Project Noah has identified 67 provinces prone to storm surges, all of which have coastlines.
Project NOAH also developed storm surge hazard maps that will predict the date and time of surge impacts, as well as the water level rise in coastlines.
It recently created a hazard map for Bataan, Pampanga, and Bulacan.
The map shows towns like Hermosa, Orani, Masantol, Lubao, Sasmuan, Hagonoy, Paombong, Bulacan, and Obando totally submerged in floodwaters in an event of a storm surge.
Another hazard map created for Agusan Del Norte, which is alongside the coastline of Tacloban, could be submerged by as much as 5 meters or 15 feet of sea water in an event of storm surge.
Jo Briones, storm Surge specialist of Project NOAH, said scientists learned many lessons learned from super typhoon Yolanda. "Kapag pinalikas ang mga residente malapit sa coastline, kailangan sundin. May mga report kami na iyung ibang homeowners, hindi umalis dahil natatakot manakawan."
The flood unit of Project NOAH is also developing flood hazard models and maps to predict more efficiently the rise in water levels especially in heavy populated areas.
It developed a flood warning system on its website wherein local government units can monitor floodwater levels along 17 of the major waterways in the country. [LINK: "website" www.dream.edu.ph/products/water-level-forecast. ]
Project NOAH flod modeling chief Chino Uichanco said Cagayan de Oro recently used the project's forecasts. "Umulan sa bundok nila, na-predict natin 6 hours in advance kung ano water level sa populated areas nila," he said.