Hours after Penang was lashed by strong winds and relentless rain, causing widespread flooding, the state chapter of the Federation of Malaysian Manufacturers (FMM) criticised the Meteorological Department (MET) for being late in issuing a warning.
Its chairperson Ooi Eng Hock said the MET only issued a warning on the night of Nov 4, at 9.30pm, when the heavy rainfall had already begun.
The government issued a rebuttal the following day, pointing out its department had issued warnings as early as Nov 1.
Malaysiakini reviewed the chronology of events and found that both the Penang FMM and MET were, to some degree, correct, but the devil was in the details.
Did the MET issue bad weather warning ahead of the Penang floods?
Yes. MET issued a yellow level notice for Perlis, Kedah, Penang and parts of Perak, Kelantan and Terengganu at 1.15pm on Nov 1.
It issued a total of seven notices prior to the heavy flooding in Penang and parts of Kedah.
According to MET Malaysia's Facebook page, the warnings specific to Penang can be summarised as follows:
Nov 1, 12.18pm: Yellow level
Nov 2, 4.50pm: Yellow level
Nov 2, 7.45pm: Yellow level
Nov 3, 1.15am: Yellow level
Nov 3, 3.15pm: Yellow level
Nov 4, 6.10pm: Amber level
Nov 4, 9.30pm: Red level
So what's the problem?
Based on the seven warnings, it is apparent that there were ample yellow level warnings, but these were abruptly upgraded to amber and red in a short timeframe.
Before elaborating on the problem, it is pertinent to understand the definitions of the colour-coded warnings.
According to MET Malaysia's official website, a red level warning means continuous heavy rain is expected, with an accumulated rainfall of more than 240mm a day.
An amber warning means heavy rain of more than six hours is expected, with an accumulated rainfall of at least 60mm.
A yellow warning means continuous rain is expected but will not be heavy throughout. The amount of rainfall is not defined for a yellow warning, but it would be below the 60mm amount for an amber alert.
Therefore, warnings of below 60mm of rain being upgraded to more than 240mm a day in a matter of hours was a swift and drastic change...