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PAGASA’s radar fail to detect tornado

The tornado that swept parts of Manila Sunday went undetected by the Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA), a senior weather forecaster admitted yesterday.

“The radar did not catch it because the tornado lasted only for three minutes. For it to be recorded, it has to last for 15 minutes,” said Julie Nimes who conceded she learned only about it through social media.

Nimes said while tornadoes are not exactly rare in the Philippines, “these are mostly small and dissipate quickly.”

However, she said that yesterday’s tornado was the biggest she had encountered in 25 years in government service.

“I saw a tricycle move from one place to another on YouTube. This one can uproot trees and house roofs,” she said.

Nimes said there’s now a need to address the problem of tornadoes which she believes will get stronger and longer-lasting in the future.

Unfortunately, PAGASA is ill-equipped to forecast tornadoes.

There are two radar – one in Tagaytay and another in Subic – near where the tornado struck yesterday, but none detected it.

“Without social media, I myself would have not known it,” she said.

Yesterday’s tornado served as an eye-opener and brought to the fore the need to address it, according to Nimes.

“We should start studying the dangers pose by tornadoes,” she said, admitting that all they know about this weather phenomenon comes from what they read on books.

Despite its important role in preparing the nation for weather disturbances, PAGASA is saddled by lack of personnel and government funding.

Nimes is one of only 20 weather forecasters employed by the government agency.

Dr. Esperanza Cayanan, chief of the weather division, said PAGASA is in the midst of a P3-billion modernization program over a period of three years.

Much of the money will go in the purchase of more radar, computing and all-weather communication facilities, according to Cayanan.

“Currently, the country has 15 radar, two of which are still being set up and two mobile radar,” Cayanan said. “We probably need three more radar and two mobile radar.”

The current number of radar covers only 80 percent of the country, she said.
Cayanan conceded that there have been limited studies made on tornadoes, but is aware of the kind of destruction it brings.

“Winds can go as strong as 300 kilometers per hour and are concentrated on a small area,” she said.

Cayanan said PAGASA sent a team of researchers to study the extent of the damage brought by yesterday’s tornado.

The tornado swirled around parts of Manila Sunday, tearing off roofs and spinning debris into the air.

A 40-year-old security guard was rushed to the Jose Reyes Memorial Medical Center in critical condition after being hit by a hard object while on top of a dormitory in Quiapo during the tornado.

Police identified the victim as Elmer Quirino Navales who was given 50-50 chance of survival by doctors.

Tornado also toppled electric poles, causing power interruption in the area.

Tarpaulins and billboards were torn off and a parked Toyota Vios owned by Nazario Cebreros was damaged. (With report from Jaimie Rose R. Aberia) (REY BANCOD)