Letter to the Editor | Weather report: ‘A potentially dangerous problem’

Dear Editor,

As rainstorms and thunderstorms are increasingly occurring in the mornings, there is an imperative need on accurate and confident predictions by the Macau Meteorology and Geophysical Bureau (SMG) and considered delays and suspensions by the Macau Education and Youth Affairs Bureau (DSEJ) to ensure the safety of Macau students and families transporting their children to school.
Following the incident back in March in which a delay/suspension was issued inaccurately, despite the fact that it was likely necessary given the potentially dangerous conditions, DSEJ and SMG’s credibility in handling weather events has decreased.
The last rainstorm delay on April 13th was one example in which the right call was made.  However this morning (Friday, April 22nd), conditions were considerably worse as rain falling at steady rates in excess of 30mm/hour combined with frequent, near-by lightning threatened the safety of those that had to brave the storm.  SMG called a Thunderstorm warning at 7:30 am, well in advance of the start time of most schools, but DSEJ was silent.  With no delay or cancellation called by DSEJ, students and parents needed to risk the health and safety of their children in order to avoid an unexcused absence.
Thankfully my child’s school, St. Joseph’s College Primary School and Kindergarten (CDSJ), made the moral and ethical call to make on-time arrival an option with no penalty so that we could wait for the storm to reasonably subside before taking any attempt to face dangerous conditions.
This matter stems from SMG’s confusion as to what a Thunderstorm or a Rainstorm is. In reality, most of the time they are one in the same.
Thunderstorms are often more dangerous as they include heavy rain with dangerous lightning and wind gusts. However, DSEJ requirements only permit a delay if SMG issues a Rainstorm Warning, but not a Thunderstorm Warning. This oversight and failure to recognize dangerous weather conditions puts our children at great jeopardy of physical harm or sickness, especially when these storms occur at transportation times.
Friday’s  ridiculousness was capped when 15 minutes to 9 a.m. SMG indicated that they would issue a Rainstorm Warning at 9:05 am, after school start times. Followed by afternoon school cancelations and a Rainstorm Warning for conditions that never materialized.
This gives great insight that SMG doesn’t understand their own classification systems and that DSEJ fails to error on the side of reasonable caution when it comes to student safety in these situations.
Clarification and refinement of this confusing and broken system is needed.  DSEJ, SMG, parents and the local schools need immediate action to correct this potentially dangerous problem. Luke Lienau, Macau

Categories Macau Opinion