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Friday, Dec 04, 2020

Hong Kong has a system for helping keep children safe on stormy days

Hong Kong has a system for helping keep children safe on stormy days

Notwithstanding the advancement of weather forecast tools over the past decade, it remains challenging to forecast heavy rain with a long lead time.
We write in response to the letter “Officials failing pupils with late rain warnings” from Mr Shabbir Barma, published on October 8 and concerning the rainstorm event in the early morning of October 5.

To safeguard the safety of students, the Education Bureau and the Hong Kong Observatory have established a communication mechanism during inclement weather. Throughout the rainstorm event on October 5, the bureau closely liaised with the observatory on considering appropriate school arrangements.

When tropical cyclone warning signal No 3 or above or the “red” or “black” rainstorm warning signal is issued, the bureau’s special announcements will be disseminated through the media.

Schools may make additional arrangements to cater for their students’ specific needs. Parents may also exercise discretion in sending their children to school with regard to inclement weather conditions and safety considerations. Schools have been required to reassure parents that their children will not be penalised for lateness or absence from school under such exceptional circumstances.

On the other hand, the rainstorm warning system is designed to alert the public to imminent threats of widespread heavy rain which is likely to bring about major disruptions to traffic and other activities, and to ensure emergency preparedness of essential services.

Rainstorm warning signals are issued based on objective guidelines. Generally speaking, the “amber”, “red” and “black” rainstorm warning signals are issued when heavy rain has fallen or is expected to fall generally over Hong Kong, exceeding 30, 50 and 70 millimetres respectively, and is likely to continue. On October 5, the red rainstorm warning signal was issued in accordance with the above criteria at 8.05am, about 30 minutes before the rainfall peaked.

Notwithstanding the advancement of weather forecast tools over the past decade, it remains challenging for meteorological services to forecast heavy rain events with a long forecast lead time, particularly for small places like Hong Kong in which weather conditions can change very rapidly. Feedback and support from the public are much appreciated.
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