CAGAYAN de Oro City officials are mulling putting in place a warning device in the city’s creeks and canals to track water levels and warn residents of imminent flooding.
Rain gauges and early warning instruments are already in place along the Cagayan River and its tributaries Verner Monsanto, a consultant of the City Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Department (CDRRMD), said putting similar devices in creeks and canals may mitigate the effects of floods.
The proposal came after parts of the city was once again submerged by flood waters on Saturday, January 27, the second in a row this January alone.
Monsanto said Saturday’s flood was less destructive than the January 16 flood.
Monsanto explained that what the city is experiencing is not the usual flash flood but urban flooding, common in low-lying cities, such as Cagayan de Oro.
“Ang urban flooding is experienced in cities kay ang cities gud sa una, dili pa daghan ang namuyo, wala pay establishments, karon daghan nay balay so dili na kalusot ang tubig (Urban flooding is experienced in cities because before, population is minimal, with only few establishments. But now there are a lot of houses making it difficult for the water to find passageways),” he said.
The city is surrounded by 7 water basins: Iponan River water basin, Cagayan de Oro river basin, Bigaan water basin, Cugman river water basin, Umalag river water basin, Umalag water basin, Agusan river basin, and Tagpuange river water basin, thus making the city vulnerable to heavy flooding.
While local officials are still finalizing the drainage system master plan, Monsanto said they are starting to invite companies who can provide technologies to solve this problem.
He said initially, an application-maker has expressed interest in studying the city’s flood problem adding that CDRRMD is contacting Dr. Enrico Paringit, one of the most-sought after engineers in the country, to run tests on a new project called urban flooding forecasting.
“Karon ang atong solution nga nakit-an is usbon nato atong drainage system, kay ang atong design sa drainage was made 15-20 years ago nga dili pa ingani kadako ang syudad, but that is long-term solution, and we cannot wait years for that to happen (What we see as solution is to change the drainage system because its design was made 15 to 20 years ago, and the city is not as big as it is now),” Monsanto said.
“So in the meantime, while we see that this is the new norm for the city, what we will do is set up an early warning system, just like what we have in our rivers so we will know if the rivers are already in critical level; and let the people know, who are residing beside the river and within the area, to evacuate immediately and advise them, perhaps an hour early, that flooding will occur in the area and we need to do pre-emptive evacuation,” he added.
Meanwhile, CDRRMD officials on Saturday cleared up the confusion on the difference of the city’s color coding advisories with that of the Philippine, Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration’s (Pagasa).
Pagasa, at 11 a.m. Saturday, had raised the alert level to "red" in Misamis Oriental while the city-issued advisory was at code orange.
Vergel Lago, CDRRMD weather monitoring chief, explained that Pagasa’s advisory is based on rainfall, while CDRRMD’s is based on water level and suggested protocols to be put in place to avoid confusion.
“Ang sa rainfall warning, sa ulan ra gyud na siya, kung pila na ka millimeters nga ulan ang nabubo mao ilang basis why mag-red. But for us, although naa gihapon siyay rainfall measurement, but extended siya nga information because apil ang required actions na dapat buhaton sa barangay disaster risk reduction team,” he said.
“Our advisory is localized and specific, unlike sa Pagasa nga in general. Ours has rules and procedures to be followed,” he added.
Meanwhile, Monsanto said the barangays affected during Saturday’s flooding were the same barangays hit by flood last January 16.
But Saturday’s flooding was less destructive, Monsanto said.
“Traffic is managed well, dili pareha atong January 16 nga naunhan ta sa baha. Last Saturday, we managed to deploy our traffic enforcers and manage traffic and impose the new traffic scheme for the flood,” he said.
Classes at the University of Science and Technology of Southern Philippines, formerly known as Mindanao University of Science and Technology, was canceled early and by 11 a.m., RTA enforcers had blocked and closed impassable roads to motorists.
Motorists were advised not to take flooded roads such as Gumamela extension, J.V Seriña Street, Villarin Street, Osmeña street, Corrales Extension, and CM Recto which were declared impassable by 11 a.m.
As of 9:20 in the evening on Saturday, a total of 402 families or 1,694 individuals were evacuated due to severe flooding.
Published in the Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro newspaper on January 30, 2017.