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September 2, 2010

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One cyclone fizzles, but a second floods streets

What typhoon effects?

That's what many people in Shanghai wondered after hearing the weather authority warn on Tuesday night of strong rain and gales so severe that officials canceled the first day of school - but then waking yesterday morning to mostly sunny and peaceful skies.

Surprise: Typhoon Kompasu ran well past Shanghai, causing barely a ruffle to the downtown morning weather.

Weather officials yesterday explained their missed forecast by saying that the recent batch of cyclones - with three coming all at once - was too peculiar to predict.

"The winds were much lighter than forecast," said Man Liping, a chief service officer of Shanghai Meteorological Bureau. "But I feel relieved that city avoided potential violent storms caused by the typhoon."

Forecasters had predicted Kompasu wouldn't hit Shanghai directly, but would come close enough to bring the city heavy winds and rains.

As it turned out, Kompasu came no closer than 300 kilometers from the city, and the bureau lifted its typhoon alert 11am yesterday as Kompasu moved northeast.

Chen Zhiqiang, deputy director of the bureau, said the bureau had predicted three routes that the typhoon Kompasu might take as it neared Shanghai, and it finally took the east one, the farthest from the city, rather than the middle one as forecast.

"The set of three tropical storms, Lion Rock, Namtheum and Kompasu, was unique and it was hard to predict their further route," Chen said.

He said the dying-out of Namtheum, the middle of the three recently formed storms, and the sudden fading of a subtropical high caused Kompasu to diverge east.

"I had observed three storms before, but not like these in my career over 20 years," Chen told reporters yesterday.

"The distance among the three storms was very close and the interaction was frequent. And the size of each of the three was not big, which made them easily affected by the other two."

As Kompasu veered away from the Shanghai region on its ocean course, it intensified into a severe typhoon yesterday morning, but weakened back to a typhoon at about 7pm as it arrived in the Yellow Sea and headed toward the Korean Peninsula.

Though Kompasu missed the city, classes were still suspended yesterday, giving 1.6 million students an extra day off - and sunny weather, to boot.

Kids slept at home, played games with friends and even visited the Expo site.

"I will pray for more typhoon breaks, especially before exams," said Jeff Yang, a student of Shanghai Donghui Vocational School.

This wasn't the first time schools were closed because of typhoon warnings, only to see no trace of a typhoon. The same thing happened on September 19, 2007.

"I'm becoming used to the false alarm," said primary school staffer Steven Mao.

The number of Expo visitors yesterday fell to 181,700 as of 9pm, the lowest in the last 111 days.

The rabbit head and tail of the Macau Pavilion were taken down as a safety precaution for the typhoon. The parts won't be installed until Sunday, authorities said.

The city did experience two severe thunderstorms yesterday afternoon and evening under the influence of Lion Rock and a cold front.

At least 200 households in 30 residential areas and 60 streets in Xuhui, Putuo, Pudong, Changning and Minhang districts were flooded in the torrential rain yesterday, said Shanghai Flood Control Headquarters. Residents on the No. 1 Zhongshan Road S. said the water even submerged their knees during the heaviest period.

The most precipitation appeared in downtown Xujiahui area at 144.6 millimeters, followed by the Huamu area of Pudong at 129.3 millimeters. The rain water was measured above 100 millimeters in 18 areas across the city. There was no flooding reported at the Expo site, though precipitation ranged from 69.8 to 114.9 millimeters

Shanghai Meteorological Bureau issued the yellow rain storm alert, third heaviest of the four-level system, twice at 12:58pm and 3:57pm, which was finally upgraded to the highest red alert at 8:15pm. It was the second red rainstorm alert this year.


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