A radio announcer and an event organiser accused of misleading members of the public has come forward to clarify some of the points he raised in relation to Cyclone Amos.
Seti Afoa had suggested on a Facebook post that Cyclone Amos was a “Phantom storm.” This was refuted and rebuked by the Chairman of the Disaster Advisory Committee, Suluimalo Amataga Penaia, as unfounded and irresponsible.
“I have created a Storm of my own, with my critical remarks of the official weather bulletins we were receiving from the Met Office during the Cyclone,” Afoa told the Samoa Observer.
“I didn’t realize there was a Media Conference yesterday (Sunday) to counter my comments after the storm, TV1 just left my office chasing the story; while I stand by my comments, I do regret any offense taken because of them.” Asked to elaborate on what he meant by the use of the term “Phantom storm” Afoa said, “It was in reference to a hidden storm that the Met office predicted would hit during the day on Sunday and lasting into the afternoon.
“My viewing of the situation had the storm passing us before daybreak, Amos passed well before that.
“However, because of the official releases that the Cyclone was to develop to Cat 3 and will arrive Sunday during the day and into the afternoon, I therefore became very concerned.
“I did not see that on the satellite that I was looking at, I was worried that I was delivering the wrong information.
“I began to think that there was another Cyclone hidden behind Amos that I didn’t see on the satellite imagery that was available to me, I looked at other models and maps but did not see a secondary cyclone to arrive later in the day. “I then called the secondary cyclone a phantom storm, one that I couldn’t see, and in the end didn’t exist.”
Afoa added that he is by no means a weather expert and emphasized the importance of the role of the Weather Office.
“As broadcasters to the country, we rely heavily on our Met Office for expert information,” he said. “They are the trained scientists with the appropriate tertiary qualification with expensive machines and technology for that purpose. “We do not have those resources, therefore relying on the correctness of the expert information being delivered. Prediction of the Sunday afternoon cyclone as we now know was incorrect as was the Cat 3 development of the storm.
“In our broadcast on Saturday night on Magik FM, I delivered two lots of information:
1. What I saw from the satellite imagery I had access to and my thoughts around that information
2. The Official Information from the Met Office - I stressed at every delivery of the information that the people had to go with the Official Weather bulletin as the correct information.”
Afoa felt it was necessary to find other means of data collection to provide the public with more reliable information.
“In the absence of regular official updates from the Met Office during the night I then turned to the live show on my screen to deliver the information as I interpreted it,” he said.
“It turned out to be correct at every turn; we were able to deliver exactly where big rain was falling and the lateral movement of Amos despite the SE movement predicted by scientific models.
“We were able to interpret from the sat imagery the absence of wind in the large part of the system; it was only as the centre of the cyclone got closer to us that we experienced the strong gusts associated with Cat 2.
“All this is also available to everyone, including the Met Office. In my view, during times of a storm like Amos, the regularity of official weather updates needs to be on the hour, not six-hourly as is the current practice.
“The country wants regular updates from our experts.”
Three things that changed during the storm
1. The direction the storm took when it reached Samoa.
Scientific models predicted the storm to move SE before reaching Savaii, and then SE to the Cyclone graveyard east of NZ via Tonga.
“It didn’t, instead moving lateral at 12 deg South. Samoa is at 13.7 deg S. We at Magik FM on Saturday night, and even two days before that predicted the cyclone to move exactly as it did once it reaches Samoa. This is not based on any scientific model but on two observations.
“(i) Recent Cyclone Winston in Fiji moved lateral from where it was South of us to east of Vanuatu (where it started two weeks earlier on 7 Feb). The lateral movement of the storm from Vanuatu to northern Tonga and back again to east of Vanuatu made me think that perhaps Amos might do the same. “The SE movement of storm fronts is normal, but not for big systems driving themselves such as Amos and Winnie.
“(ii) My second observation goes back to January 2013 with TC Garry, it behaved exactly the same when it reached us. Except then Garry did a “moon jump” west of Asau and resurfaced on the other side of Upolu, not hitting us at all.
“Those are my layman observations I used to interpret what would happen with Amos when it reaches Samoa.
“2. The absence of wind, my layman eyes could see there was no wind in the system. I was able to deliver that information as early as 8pm on Saturday night.
“3. Speed of Passing, Amos was moving very slowly at 8knots (14.5kms) towards Samoa. That speed increased to 20km ph and more once at the top of Asau. The effect was the storm moved a lot faster west to east. I can understand this as the likely cause to calculate for a Sunday afternoon arrival of the storm.
“The above information could have been delivered on regular bulletin updates during the Cyclone. That information was available to all, plus the expert data and interpretation would have meant clear timeframes for Amos.” Afoa also praised the efforts of everyone – including the Samoa Met Office – during the storm.
“In the end Magik FM listeners could understand clearly what was happening throughout the night.
“My gratitude goes to DMO & STA teams, LTA, the Police and Emergency services that were well organized for Civil Emergencies,” he said.
“In the end Samoa was more than prepared for Amos, which is a great thing.”