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Hong Kong weather

Hong Kong Observatory launches district-specific rain warning system

The Observatory said the announcements will be particularly useful for those in areas prone to flooding, in addition to existing territory-wide alerts

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 28 July, 2016, 9:03pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 28 July, 2016, 10:41pm

The Observatory rolled out a new warning service for regional rainstorms on Thursday to prepare Hongkongers for potential floods before territory-wide red and black alerts are hoisted.

The new announcements will be issued for a particular district when more than 70mm of rain is recorded — a threshold equivalent to that of a black rainstorm warning signal.

They will also be issued even after an amber alert has been hoisted, to warn the public of heavy downpours in their area that have yet to spread across Hong Kong.

Announcements will be disseminated through radio, television, as well as on the Observatory’s website and mobile app.

The Observatory said the announcements will be particularly useful for those in areas prone to flooding.

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The addition came just over three months after local weather forecasters were slammed for not issuing a red rainstorm warning signal in mid-April, when commuters and schoolchildren had to brave battering rain and regional floods one Wednesday morning.

The Observatory had explained that it stuck with amber alert because the average rainfall at the time did not meet the threshold for hoisting higher alerts.

According to its website, a rainstorm signal is issued when a certain amount of rain falls or is expected to fall “generally over Hong Kong”.

For an amber warning to be issued, 30mm of rain must be ­recorded, while the thresholds for red and black alerts are 50mm and 70mm respectively.

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Its scientific officer He Yu-heng said on Thursday that the new “Announcement on Localised Heavy Rain” would enhance the provision of timely information on heavy rain to the public.

The Observatory advised the public to check their regional rainfall information and the radar imageries on its website and mobile app to better gauge the rainfall situation.

Clarence Fong, director of weather website Weather Underground, said the announcements would be useful to those planning for outdoor activities. But it would be of little help to those deciding on whether or not to go to school or work as they would still have to commute in the rain before a red or black alert is hoisted, he said.

The Drainage Services Department welcomed the move as the announcements are expected to help its staff deploy resources for emergency measures in a timely manner to alleviate the impact of flooding during rainstorms.