28 February 2007

Super summer storm!

Yesterday there was a terrible storm over a wide area between Rosario and Buenos Aires. Summer storms are commonly the product of several days of high temperature and humidity followed by the arrival of a cold front. The heat and the humidity had been so much that it rained cats and dogs for hours.

I've told you about climate change before. Ten, twenty years ago I remember these storms once every year, or even every two or three years. They were clearly unusual events. But extreme weather has become so frequent that we might as well revise what "extreme" means. Lately it seems that almost every storm is a catastrophe.

Yesterday's rain was accompanied by wind and lightning. The state of maintenance of our sewage pipes and our electrical grid is such that within the first hour of any significant storm, thousands are left without power and/or get their homes flooded. Soon after the storm released its fury, while I was in my office (it was 7:15 AM), lightning stroke nearby and blew off something in our phone line, so we're incommunicado now. Surprisingly, nothing else happened there or at home. However, when I came back I found that a group of people living in a shanty town beside an avenue about 10 blocks from home had blocked the street and organized a picket. The avenue was like a river of mud, and these people were (I guess) demanding attention from the authorities the only way they could, as they'd probably lost all their precarious furniture. The picket was still there today.

We haven't had more hail of the kind we got in November, but the weather has become a serious issue. People, especially people who own cars and use them every day, have developed an accute obsession with forecasts. Being caught in a storm might mean getting your car trapped in a flooded street, pounded by hailstones, or damaged by a falling tree limb. After a wave of criticism caused by its lack of quick warnings, the National Meteorological Service has upgraded its weather alert system, and every day paranoid rosarinos check the news and promptly inform their family and workmates (by word of mouth, phone or text message) as soon as they spot the words ALERTA METEOROLÓGICA.

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