Surigao on alert as tropical depression “Ofel” nears

SURIGAO CITY (MindaNews/23 October) —  Acting Surigao del Norte Governor Carlos Egay Jr. has ordered the Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Climate Change Adaptation office to go on “24-hour active monitoring” after the weather bureau raised Public Storm Signal No. 1 over Dinagat Island, Surigao and Agusan provinces, and Camiguin Island.

Satellite Image  10:30 p.m., 23 October 2012 . PAG-ASA
Satellite Image 10:30 p.m., 23 October 2012 . PAG-ASA

Constancio Arpon, head of the Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) here  urged residents to be always be on alert while tropical depression “Ofel”  as of 5 p.m. continued to make its way west northwest in the general direction of Surigao del Norte “about 80 kms east of Surigao City or over the Siargao-Dinagat Island by Wednesday morning.”

He said his office will continue issuing updates every three hours.

Gilbero Gonzales, deputy chief of the DRR-CCA office said Vice Governor Egay, who is Acting Governor while Governor Sol Matugas is in Vietnam, instructed them to be on 24-hour active monitoring despite a “relatively small” rainfall registering 5-15 mm per hour.

He said their monitoring showed that as of 4 p.m., the rainfall in Zamboanga, Davao and Leyte was higher than in Surigao City.

But Arpon said this is not unusual since in a tropical storm “cloud bands are not evenly distributed” causing holes in some parts and cloudiness in others. He added this explains why the sun remains visible even when a storm signal has been raised.

In 1984, Tropical Storm Nitang caused heavy damage and left hundreds dead and millions worth of infrastructure damaged in Surigao City and Surigao del Norte.

The night before the storm, residents ignored the storm signal because there was no rain and wind gustiness.

Gonzales said all barangay-based “first responders” are on red alert especially those in high-risk areas, including Mainit, Quezon and Sison.

Early Tuesday morning,  all sea vessels including those bound for Cebu were barred from leaving port, according to Lt. Joel Simoag of the Philippine Coast Guard in Surigao del Norte.(Vanessa Almeda/MindaNews)