Date
28 March 2017
Some primary school students needed a ride from firefighters on their way to school. One school allowed pupils to take off their wet shoes and socks during lessons. Photos: Facebook/Cheuk Lim Chiang
Some primary school students needed a ride from firefighters on their way to school. One school allowed pupils to take off their wet shoes and socks during lessons. Photos: Facebook/Cheuk Lim Chiang

Observatory blasted over lack of red rainstorm warning

The Hong Kong Observatory has come under fire for deciding not to hoist a red rainstorm warning on Wednesday morning despite heavy rain.

The HKO did raise an amber rainstorm warning at 6:30 a.m., half an hour after a thunderstorm warning had been issued, Apple Daily reported Thursday.

The rainstorm warning was to last for six hours and the thunderstorm warning for seven hours.

The heaviest rainfall took place from 6:45 a.m. until 8:45 a.m.

Between 6:45 a.m. and 7:45 a.m., more than 50 millimeters of rain, a record, fell in Yuen Long, Tuen Mun and Tai Po, meeting the threshold for hoisting the red signal.

Meanwhile, North District, Sha Tin, Kowloon City and Wong Tai Sin experienced a record rainfall of over 45 millimeters during that hour.

An hour later, the rainband moved south.

The outlying islands and Southern District had over 50 millimeters of rain, and Eastern District got 47 millimeters of rain.

As a result, many people were soaked when they got to school or work, and they were upset with the HKO for not putting up the red rainstorm warning signal.

The red signal is hoisted when heavy rain has fallen or is expected to fall generally over Hong Kong, exceeding 50 millimeters in an hour, and is likely to continue, the HKO’s guidelines say.

Li Ping-wah, senior scientific officer at the HKO, said the rainfall Wednesday morning did not reach the red rainstorm level.

Also, the rainband was moving fast and weakened within few hours, Li said.

The downpour on Wednesday morning was caused by a strong rainband moving from north to south, which affected the coastal areas.

Li said the HKO promised it will continue to closely monitor the weather and issue warnings to the public.

The HKO plans to launch later this year a new service providing rainstorm warnings for local areas.

Meanwhile, the rainstorm signal debate heated up among two teachers’ groups — the Hong Kong Federation of Education Workers (FEW) and the Hong Kong Professional Teachers’ Union (PTU).

FEW criticized the weather forecasters for posting the lowest level of the three-tier rainstorm warning system (the highest is black), saying many students and teachers arrived late at school because of the heavy downpour.

It also blasted the HKO as being bureaucratic and not having taken the actual situation into consideration.

Under Education Bureau guidelines, morning classes and whole-day schools will be suspended if a red rainstorm signal is issued between 6 a.m. and 8 a.m.

However, PTU vice president Ip Kin-yuen, the lawmaker representing the education constituency, said it should not be HKO that should be blamed, as it is the Education Bureau that decides whether to suspend classes.

Nevertheless, he said the suspension of classes should follow the existing guidelines and protocols.

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BT/DY/FL

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