In future, floods may not ambush you

SINGAPORE - National water agency PUB said yesterday that it was testing a pilot flood- forecast system, the first of its kind in the tropical region.

Just hours after the announcement, as if to underline the need for such early warning, there was a flash flood at the junction of New Upper Changi Road and Chai Chee Road. Water swelled in the low-lying area, catching several motorists by surprise.

With monsoon season likely to be upon us again by the end of next month, more flash floods could be expected.

The forecast system is still in its early stages of development, but PUB said that a five- to 15-minute flood warning would represent "some success".

Presumably, such an alert could give residents time to get their act together and perhaps serve as a warning to those travelling to the affected area.

"The idea of this research project is to use a local-area-network radar to capture the rain clouds as they fall and then calculate, estimate and predict where the clouds will then move over the next one hour or so," said Mr Tan Nguan Sen, director of catchment and waterways at PUB, at a media briefing yesterday.

"Hopefully with that, we will be able to predict where it falls and to be able to also then predict the areas that can potentially flood."

The system will undergo a trial for about a year to determine its effectiveness.

Mr Chew Men Leong, chief executive of PUB, said it is not possible to eliminate flash floods despite PUB's "best efforts" but the current alerts in place can alert the public promptly.

This year's North-east Monsoon season will last from the middle of next month till March next year and could see about two to four episodes of monsoon surges - prolonged widespread moderate to heavy rain lasting between two and five days.

Meanwhile, PUB will intensify inspections - from once to thrice a week - at some 100 worksites near drains and canals islandwide to check for drain obstructions.

It has also replaced 6,000 scupper holes and drop-inlet chambers in flood-prone areas with an improved design.

The modified chambers will have vertical gratings which allow runoff drainage when horizontal gratings are blocked.

The agency will also start new drainage-improvement projects at 36 locations, including Thomson Road, Boon Lay Way and Somerset Road, over the next two years. Such projects are ongoing at 176 locations, including eight major canals.

By the end of this year, work will also start on the Stamford Detention Tank, which, when completed in 2016, will be able to hold stormwater temporarily from drains along Holland Road.

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