Coastweek -- Over
the last few weeks the country has been pounded by rain that
though we consider to be heavy is more or less normal in terms
of average precipitation,
writes TETI KAMUGUNDA.
The met prediction, in
its vaguest splendour, predicted that we would have near normal
to above normal rainfall in the Western, Rift and Central areas
of the country.
This is a prediction
that was made for the three months of March, April and May.
In my view the weather
man has been reasonably accurate in terms of their prediction
for the three months.
However, the peaks have
been unseasonably high leading to the havoc we have seen across
many parts of the country.
The flooding we are
seeing is reminiscent of the El Nino events in the late nineties
and the flooding on the mid sixties.
Motorists have been as
hard hit as the farming and pastoral communities that rely on
the river water and have generally settled close to the water.
The reasons we are
seeing this level of destruction and displacement is common
across most of the country – and it is not only about
deforestation. It is all about improper developments and also
clearing of undergrowth.
In Nairobi and Mombasa
and indeed many of the county headquarters, flooding of roads
and residential areas has been quite pronounced due to the
higher precipitation rates experienced.
The reason we see
flooding is that first, the drainage is clogged. Most have not
been cleaned for years so water has to find alternative routes.
These alternative routes
are the roads and paths on which we walk and drive.
As the water navigates
the roads and paths that we use, it picks up all the rubbish
that has not been cleared and this rubbish ends up being trapped
where there are restrictions in the path of the water.
This could be a mesh
fence, a wall, a small drain and so forth.
The trapping of rubbish
will cause the water to back up and hence cause the flooding
that we see.
However, the danger
arises when the flooding is in places that we do not expect it
The unexpected could be
on the road, could be in areas where people have built houses or
even in places that have public facilities.
Water does not decide
what to inundate and what to spare – it simply ploughs on to
achieve its objective. Water must flow to the lowest point where
it can collect and lose its potential energy.
This is energy that
exists because of the difference in elevation. If something is
released at a higher elevation, it will fall to the lowest point
where it comes to rest and cannot move any further.
So, a stone at the top
of a slope or in one’s hand has the potential energy that is
released once it starts moving down a slope or is thrown by the
person holding it.
As road users we must
therefore change our mindset whenever the rainy season sets in
or even when we have a sudden downpour that is in an isolated
area when we least expect rain.
For me the warning to
change how I drive is when I see any wetness on the road or on
the areas surrounding the road.
I would normally err on
the side of caution and assume that there has been rain in that
area. I would also take the worst case and assume that the rain
During the day one can
see for a fair distance so a driver can prepare themselves for
any hazards that they can see. However, night driving is
different as one cannot see as far.
This is when most
accidents occur as a result of “weather”. Night driving in
“weather” requires special precautions – most of which are
One must drive at much
lower speeds than one normally does.
The best guide is to
drive so that one can make an emergency brake and stop within
the distance that is visible with dipped headlights (not full
lights as these tend to illuminate into the distance).
It is also imperative
that should there be an oncoming vehicle, one should slow down
even further as even driving into a pool of water at ten
kilometres an hour is enough to create a spray that will splash
onto one’s windscreen and cause one to lose orientation and
probably veer off the road and hit something.
Even at this low speed,
one can be seriously injured or even die depending on the
As drivers, the rainy
season is a time when we must really be conscious of the
potential risks that we face and modify our behaviour
Each driving style and
each circumstance that the driving skill combines with will
require a different behaviour modification.
We must make that
conscious decision to change how we behave on the road.
If we do not and
continue driving as though things were normal than it is an
invitation to damage and probably injury and death.
It is the same for
wananchi who live in areas that have had flooding in the past
and it does not have to be in the recent past.
We will look at this
As Kachumbari says,
water is a force that we must respect.
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