By PETER ORENGO: The Standard
The Meteorological Department has predicted depressed and poorly distributed rainfall over most parts of the country during the March-May season.
They have advised the country’s agricultural bread-basket counties in Western, Nyanza and Rift Valley provinces, where rainfall maybe near-normal, to take advantage of the rains and maximise crop yield through appropriate land-use management.
According to latest predictions by the weatherman, only the western part of the country and the northern Coastal strip are likely to experience slightly enhanced rainfall while several places in Northeastern Kenya are likely to have depressed rainfall.
Although the months of March to May constitute an important rainfall season over Kenya and much of East Africa, most of the rainfall is expected during April.
“Farmers are, therefore, advised to work closely with the Ministry of Agriculture on ways of taking advantage of the expected good rainfall,” said the Director of Meteorological Services, Joseph Mukabana, at a press conference in Nairobi, on Tuesday.
Dr Mukabana said in other agricultural regions in the central, Southeastern and coastal Kenya, where the rainfall was expected to be ‘Near-Normal’ with a tendency towards ‘Below-Normal’, farmers were also advised to liaise with the Agriculture ministry to get advice on planting appropriate crops.
Mukabana explained the reasons for depressed rainfall were due to weak La-Niña conditions – cooler than average sea surface temperatures (SSTs) – present over the eastern and central equatorial Pacific Ocean. Slightly cooler than average SSTs were also observed over western Equatorial Indian Ocean last month and in January.
“Warm SSTs over the South-West Indian Ocean basin are conducive for the formation of tropical cyclones (TCs) during the March to May period. The TC presence may, therefore, affect the forecasted rainfall conditions over different parts of the country,” said Mukabana.
The Met department also warned the country to expect disasters usually linked to La-Niña conditions.
“Lightning strikes may occur in western Kenya especially within Gusii and Kakamega counties owing to strong convective activities between Lake Victoria, Mau Escarpment and Mt Elgon,” said the director.
He said Budalangi and Kano areas were also likely to experience some degree of flash flooding while isolated cases of landslides and mudslides were likely in some parts of Western and Rift Valley provinces.
The Met advised the National Disaster Operations Centre to take necessary measures that would ensure mitigation of negative impacts resulting from the forecast conditions.
It also predicted that flash floods may be experienced in western and some parts of central Kenya. This may lead to transport problems, especially during rush hours, more so in areas where roads become impassable when it rains.
Slippery roads and visibility during rainstorms might also pose dangers to motorists and pedestrians, who should take utmost care during the rainy period. The municipalities have also been encouraged to develop capacity to cater for an ever-increasing population, due to increased rural-urban migration.
Light aircraft are advised to take utmost care on the western routes and avoid flying through deep cumulus clouds, especially in the afternoon hours. Such clouds are usually associated with severe lightning.
Things are not expected to be bad in the power sector since the Turkwel and Sondu Miriu catchment areas are expected to experience near-normal rainfall with a slight tendency to above-normal during the months of March to May.
The Met also predicted that the level of water in hydroelectric power generation dams would improve significantly during the season.
However, this would not be the case in the Tana River catchment areas where below-normal rains were expected. This was expected to affect in-flow into the Seven-Forks dams.