Maharashtra disaster management cell struggling with ineffective lightning predictors

Demands specific, area-based, early lightning detection system.

Written by Nisha Nambiar | Pune | Published: June 6, 2016 12:32 am
monsoon, monsoon in pune, pune, pune news, pune disaster management cell, pune disaster, IITM, indian express news, IMD
There are currently 20 lightning sensors across the state and the software developed by the IITM will see the IMD ready for a short messaging system.

EVEN AS a sweltering Pune welcomed the first pre-monsoon shower on June 1, the preparedness of the city to handle disasters during the monsoon season has come under speculation early with two persons dying, near Council Hall, due to lightning and thunderstorm activity.

This year itself, eight deaths have been reported in the state so far due to lightning activity during the pre-monsoon shower period itself. Last year, according to the state disaster management cell, a total of 69 deaths were reported in such incidents while in 2014, 31 deaths were reported due to lightening.

With this data, the state disaster management cell is grappling with effective lightning detection system, which would give them indicators much before it actually strikes. They have been requesting both the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology (IITM) and India Meteorological Department (IMD) to ready a foolproof system that can see warning system being sent through short messaging services.

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“We have been struggling as there have been increasing number of deaths due to lightning strikes. The scanty pre-monsoon showers in May in Marathwada and even in Pune saw the death toll rise to eight. Even as the meteorological department has given us a software to detect the lightning activity, it is not very effective as the time period between two strikes is a gap of just 15-30 minutes. We have been requesting for a better system and this year too, the system is not in place,’’ said director of state disaster management Suhas Diwase.

There are currently 20 lightning sensors across the state and the software developed by the IITM will see the IMD ready for a short messaging system. “This is taking time. It is an initiative that was started under the Ministry of Earth Sciences. A software was developed by the IITM but it is not helping us with early detection. The timeframe between two lightning strikes being a gap of only 30 minutes, it was found that the SMS system in such a short duration was ineffective and not workable,’’said Dr RV Sharma, consultant at the state disaster management authority of the state government. He said that a committee is looking at addressing the issue and hopes that things should be resolved at the earliest.

Meanwhile, IITM scientist Dr S Pawar, who is the lead researcher of the system, explains that there is a lacunae in the system and they are working towards it. “We worked upon the software and gave it to them but a margin of 15-30 minutes was found to be not working. We are planning to have a system in place where we can warn at least three hours before a lightning would strike,” said Pawar. After the system is ready, the IMD will make arrangements for an SMS system that can help reach out to a large number of people.

Explaining how the system works, he said, at the time of thunderstorm and lightning, radio waves are generated and sensors that have been installed can detect them, their speed, movement and also the exact area where the lightning is about to strike. The sensors placed at various locations can enable the detection within a 100 metre radius.

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