The DANA disaster shows why weather warnings require trust

Author: Leah Pattem

DANA (a mass of high-altitude cold air mixes with warm humid air from the Mediterranean) hit Spain yesterday, affecting Madrid and Toledo the worst. Emergency services responded to around 1,500 incidents of people trapped in their cars and homes, which left two people dead and two more missing. The country experienced its third heaviest rainfall on record which Spain’s weather agency AEMET predicted, but miscalculated the timings.

Widespread criticism has been made over the new warning system that, yesterday at 13:40, alerted everyone within the Comunidad de Madrid at the time. In a first, and without any scheduled drill, a loud alarm blasted on all mobile phones. But it wasn’t until late afternoon to 7am the following morning that rain peaked, instantly making people sceptical of the seriousness of the alarm warning.

Videos showing the worst of the damage caused by around 20 hours of staggered but intense downpours are now circulating, but the intensity was highly variable depending on location.

The storm has now passed its peak and the sun is peering through the clouds once again, and questions surrounding the incident are being raised.

Mayor of Madrid Almeida has been critical of #AEMET’s expert meteorologists, who’ve responded by explaining that, despite advanced weather prediction technologies and algorithms, storms are the most difficult weather phenomenon to predict.

Before Filomena in 2020, an alarm warning may have been more apt and appreciated. However, it wasn’t Madrid’s residents who were unprepared for historic levels of snow and city-wide shutdown, it was Almeida. It took almost two weeks for ice to begin being cleared. This time, he was potentially overcautious.

In an era of increasingly dangerous and unpredictable weather, warnings and alarm systems are becoming crucial. But they must be transmitted as carefully as possible in order to ensure the trust of residents.

And for this to happen, trust is needed between the scientists and the politicians. If not, there will be no trust between the state and the people, and it will be chaos out there.


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