Farmers urged to prepare for disaster as torrential downpours expected in 2 weeks

An aerial view of flooded parts of the country. Photos were released by the Civil Defence Commission in June 2021

By: Amar Persaud

Referencing the 2021 countrywide floods that wiped out farmlands and resulted in millions of dollars in losses, the Hydrometeorological Office is urging farmers to prepare themselves as torrential downpours are expected in two weeks.

Chief Hydrometeorological Officer Dr. Garvin Cummings, during an exclusive interview with the INews on Wednesday, explained that the current wave of good weather will soon come to an end.

“We really want the Guyanese, I suppose from a hydromet perspective, to really get into the habit of preparing for the rainy season and therefore there are some activities you would want to have completed before the rainy season commences,” he explained.

“Where there is planning around the rainfall season so that when the eventual impact comes, you’re prepared so you have activities that you can then do that is impacted by the rainy season but in fact might be supported by the amount of rainfall that you have,” the weather expert added.

He explained that, “at the end of April, for example, if you’re a rice farmer, you want to finish your harvesting by that time, have your paddies dried and all of that, you don’t want to find yourself having to harvest crops in the May/June rains.”

He noted that these wetter-than-usual conditions are expected to bring some level of flooding but not as severe as last year’s unprecedented floods.

“The current forecast is projecting to be slightly wetter-than-usual conditions…the May-June period, typically, always brings the threat or the risk of flooding…it is no different for this year. At this stage, we’re not in position to say that it will be as devastating as last year but certainly at this stage, we can say there will be the chances of flooding…especially so, because we’re having wetter-than-usual conditions this year,” Dr Cummings advised.

Reflecting on the 2021 floods, he explained that it was mostly driven by a number of tropical waves coming in Guyana’s direction.

“So last May/June, we had excessive amounts of rainfall. In fact, it was a normal rainfall season driven by a number of tropical waves coming within the Guyanese territory…you had a series of tropical waves, as I described it back then, it was like a conveyer belt of tropical waves that’s coming across Guyana and bringing continuous rainfall,” he explained.

Meanwhile, Dr Cummings said over the years, Guyana has not necessarily seen an increase in rainfall but is experiencing “high intensity short duration rainfall”.

“So, it’s a lot of rain falling in a very short space of time which means that the drainage system does not have the capacity to remove that amount of rainfall in such a short space of time. The coast, for example, is designed to take off two inches to two and a half inches of rainfall, but if you’re having in a day, you’re having eight inches of rainfall and you coupled that with spring tide, then it becomes extremely difficult to remove that amount of water,” he highlighted.

Earlier today, the Hydromet Office hosted a National Climate Outlook Forum which saw the sharing of information in anticipation of the upcoming May-June rainy season.

“So, this is key part of our communication strategy; being able to bring people together and being able to communicate with them so that they have the information to prepare for the upcoming rainy season,” Dr Cummings said.

Dr Garvin Cummings

On June 9, 2021 President Dr Irfaan Ali had declared flooding in the country a level two disaster. All ten administrative regions across the country experienced flooding, with Regions Ten, Seven, Six, Five, and Two being considered the most impacted areas.

Last month, Vice President Dr Bharrat Jagdeo led a national consultation with stakeholders to develop strategic flood protection measures in light of 2021 floods.