Did Weather Authorities Cry Wolf over Super Typhoon?

  • By Park Sang-hyun from the Chosun Ilbo's News Desk

    September 08, 2022 13:19

    The words "make a fuss" caught my attention as I was reading through people's comments about news reports covering super typhoon Hinnamnor that brought heavy downpours to Korea earlier this week. One commenter said the Korea Meteorological Administration "made a big fuss, but the effect we felt was not that great. The KMA made an excessive forecast, and the government responded excessively." The comment got a huge number of likes.

    But the moment the message was being posted, an apartment complex on the shore of the southern port city of Busan was hit by a 15.4-m wave, while Jeju Island further south witnessed 21-m waves. Residents of an apartment building in the port city of Pohang were trapped in an underground parking lot by swelling waters and six of them died. Some parts of the country were indeed relatively unscathed, but other areas were devastated and lives were lost.

    Without the "fuss" made by the KMA, the damage could have been much greater. Hinnamnor ranks among the most powerful typhoons to hit Korea at only 1.9 hPa less than typhoon Maemi in 2003, which was the most destructive the country has seen. Maemi left 131 people missing and caused W4.2 trillion in property damage, while Hinnamnor did not cause as much damage because precautions were taken. (US$1=W1,384).

    The KMA's accurate forecast of Hinnamnor's path and intensity played a huge role in the preparations. Thirteen KMA weather experts began working around the clock for 10 days since Aug. 28, analyzing the typhoon's trajectory and strength. They issued updates on the typhoon every day and accurately forecast its path within 200 km.

    Despite their sleepless nights, weathermen were devastated on Tuesday night when news broke that a search was in progress for the missing residents who were trapped in the underground parking lot. KMA staff applauded when they heard news of survivors and went silent when they learned about the deaths. "We were unable to prevent the loss of lives this time as well," a meteorologist said. "My heart is heavy because I feel it's my fault."

    The typhoon has passed, but the destruction it left is becoming clear. We can only hope for the best. Instead of criticizing the KMA for "making a fuss," we should thank the agency for its diligent efforts.

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