Saturday, August 18, 2018
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Heavy rains bring flooding to parts of Kenya

Many parts of the country have been hit by unseasonable downpours, which have caused travel disruption.

Heavy rains

Although Kenya straddles the equator, it is not a particularly wet country.

The rain-bearing intertropical belt of cloud passes quickly through the country, usually in April and again in October.

These rains are known as the North and South monsoons respectively.

Because these rain bands pass over large tracts of land before reaching the country, rainfall is generally lower than one might expect in an equatorial country.

Perhaps this is just as well, as 22mm of rain, about a third of the usual March total, was enough to cause significant flooding in Nairobi on Saturday.

The flooding was undoubtedly made worse by the state of the city’s drainage system which is under increasing pressure as urbanisation continues apace and the population continues to rise.

The city’s authorities were seemingly unprepared for traffic jams, flooded roundabouts and stranded commuters, despite advanced warnings of impending heavy rain by the country’s Meteorological Department.

Other areas were hit by even heavier rainfall.

Embu, 110km northeast of Nairobi recorded 70mm of rain.

Just to the northeast of Embu, in Tharaka South, a woman and her two teenage sons were killed by a lightning strike as they sought shelter from the rain.

Meteorologists believe that the early arrival of the rains, which have also hit Tanzania, is the result of the Madden-Julian Oscillation, which is an eastward moving low pressure system that carries cloud and rain around the tropical regions over a 30 to 60 day period.

Showers are expected to continue across the country on Sunday, but drier weather will return later in the week.

Despite the inconvenience caused by the flooding, many people have welcomed the rain, as the country remains in the grip of a drought.

As recently as last month, the government declared a national drought emergency in 23 of the 47 counties.

Food insecurity is currently affecting 2.7 million Kenyans, so any rain to help agricultural output is welcome.

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