Friday, October 23, 2015

Peru prepares for El Niño

El Niño is a weather phenomenon that disrupts normal weather patterns primarily in the eastern Pacific coastal areas. It was named by Peruvian fisherman in the 1800s who noticed warming ocean temperatures around Christmas time. There is an excellent article fully explaining El Niño; it’s effects and why the most destructive El Niño on record is being anticipated in the next few weeks here.

December through March is traditionally the rainy season in much of Peru. In the coastal areas where most of the major cities are located ‘rainy season’ usually means a total rainfall of ¼ to ½ inch during the entire four month period…except during an El Niño. The El Niño of 1997-1998 caused massive flooding in Peru and particularly in the north. Cities including Trujillo, Chimbote, Chiclayo and Piura were hard-hit, with adobe brick houses of entire neighborhoods disappearing.

These bridges and two others in Piura were built after the El Niño flood destroyed every bridge connecting the two halves of the city. The canal overflowed its banks, damaging buildings on both sides.

The Peruvian government does not want a repeat of 1997-1998 and is taking hurried steps to prevent it.

Every day in the news, from Tumbes in the north to Lima in the south; a distance of 630 miles we see images of heavy equipment dredging and widening canals. Earth embankments are being erected around public and private buildings in low laying areas. Schools are staging flooding simulations

Other measures being taken include canceling annual festivals and other activities by order of regional authorities. The Lambayeque Region governor has expressively prohibited any such events from December through March.

Last month schools began teaching on Saturdays to allow them to close November 30, two weeks earlier than normal.

Summer school programs usually offered December through February have been cancelled this year at all national schools and many private schools including universities.

It rained here in Chiclayo last night. Not much, but more than the normal drizzle. It rained last week also. That’s not usual. Many of the schools we’ve worked with are in low laying areas next to irrigation canals. San Bernardino, Sapamè, Conchucos and El Pavo come to mind. Let’s hope the government’s efforts are enough to save those schools should the predictions for El Niño come true.

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