A cloudburst recently wreaked havoc in the Pakistani capital, Islamabad killing two people and flooding various areas across the city.
But, what are cloudbursts, and why are they so dangerous? If you are wondering about what a cloudburst is, you’ve come to the right place. Read more to find out exactly what a cloudburst is, its causes, and its effects.
What is a Cloudburst?
A cloudburst in a sudden, extremely heavy downpour of rain usually in a small geographical area. Cloudbursts usually last only for a few minutes but can lead to disastrous effects and flooding in that short period. Cloudbursts are more common in hilly and mountainous areas.
According to the Indian Meteorology Department (IMD) precipitation greater than 100 mm/h over a geographical region of an estimated 20–30 km is labeled as a cloudburst.
Are Cloudbursts Dangerous?
Cloudbursts are considered to be extremely dangerous and can wreak havoc in a small vicinity. They can cause immense damage to everything in their wake and may also lead to flash floods and landslides. Cloudbursts are capable of causing massive damage to an area over a short period.
What Causes Cloudbursts to Occur?
Cloudbursts are mostly caused by an excessive amount of condensation in the clouds during a thunderstorm. During a thunderstorm, the warm air currents pull the falling drops of water upwards creating an excess accumulation of water in the clouds. If it reaches a point where the upward air current is weakened, it results in sudden precipitation and downpour of all the accumulated water, in a short time causing floods in the surrounding areas. Cloudbursts can also be accompanied by thunder and hail.
What are the Effects of a Cloudburst?
Cloudbursts usually lead to catastrophic effects. Some of their effects may include:
Cloudbursts can lead to flash floods. We have seen this happen recently in Islamabad as many areas in the city became flooded causing dire consequences including the loss of two innocent lives.
Damage to infrastructure
Cloudbursts can also damage buildings, houses, roads, and other property because of the sheer force in which the downpour occurs.
Damage to trees, plants, and crops
Another effect of cloudbursts is the damage they can cause to trees, plants, and crops.
Damage to automobiles
Cloudbursts are so powerful that during a heavy downpour and flash flooding, cars, motorbikes, and other automobiles can be severely damaged or swept away.
Damage to livestock
Livestock can also be adversely affected when flooding occurs due to cloudbursts.
Sudden heavy rain caused by cloudbursts in hilly and mountainous areas can trigger landslides.
Drowning is a possibility during a cloudburst. For instance, in Islamabad, a mother and her son drowned at night as the rainwater flooded their home following a cloudburst.
Power outages and extended blackouts are common during heavy rainfall when a cloudburst occurs. You should therefore plan in advance for such a scenario and have a secondary source of power supply at your disposal like a UPS or a generator.
How to Stay Safe When a Cloudburst Occurs?
Follow these safety measures to stay safe in case there’s a cloudburst near you:
1. Don’t panic
First and foremost you should remain calm. Panic never helps in an emergency situation instead you should have your wits about you and ensure your safety and the safety of those around you.
2. Avoid Going Out
Don’t go out unnecessarily when a cloudburst occurs. Cloudbursts can cause flash floods which can be a threat to human lives.
3. Have a secondary power supply ready
During heavy rainfall, blackouts are common. It is wise to plan ahead for such a scenario and have a backup power source ready beforehand like a generator or a UPS.
4. Take shelter
If you are already out of home at the time of a cloudburst, take shelter somewhere. Don’t stand in the rain or go near flooded areas to prevent drowning. Also, stay away from electrical poles or wires to protect yourself from getting electrocuted.
5. Stay up-to-date with the latest news
It is important to stay updated on the latest news for important information like flooded areas and weather predictions for your safety.
6. Emergency kits can come in handy
In times of a catastrophe, a first aid kit can really help. You should prepare an emergency kit in advance so it may be used when needed.
Rain can be a blessing, but sometimes it can also be a curse, as in the case of cloudbursts. We need to be aware of the causes, effects, and safety precautions of cloudbursts to stay safe if they occur near us.
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