Cyclone Vardah: last December water; This December cables!

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A discussion on the disruption of daily life and the ecosystem due to the cyclone Vardah and how it compared with last years Chennai floods.

Last December Chennai was flooded due to a freak weather system that resembled a wet sponge wringing itself dry right on top of us. It was water everywhere. There was no trace of wind.

This time around, when Cyclone Vardah headed towards Chennai after gaining strength in the Bay of Bengal for days, the joke was that wind is due to Rajnikanth blowing out his birthday candles on Dec. 12th.

It took about 5-6 hours for the monster to cross past Chennai and neighbouring regions. This time, there was little water and only wind. And what a wind it was! Howling and fierce. Coconut trees resembled inverted pendulums. That saved them! They say that sometimes you got to bend a little. The palms trees could do that easily and survived. Many others could not. They were simply too rotund, malnourished due to the concrete jungle and uncared for by the residents.

As Vardah swept past, everyone felt like this guy. Photos by my wife –pan-O-rama

By the evening of 12th Dec, Chennai looked greener than ever! Thousands and thousands of branches and trees –on the roads.

Last time it was cars floating. This time they were smashed.

Power was cut off just before the wind storm as a precaution. Thank god for that. Else hundreds would have died as about 800-1000 power posts fell down and transformers hit by trees. Soon there was no power to give back to.

Considering the damage, the restoration was quite fast. Not at the same time in all areas though . Last year, we went four days without power and my locality was not even flooded. This time, it was less than 2 days. Perhaps because we are part of the old city. In many regions it took one more day.

This post is about cables as the title would suggest. The first kind of cables are the power lines mentioned above.

The second are the BSNL cables. Which were underground. So they survived in many areas – the floods last year and the winds this year. There are some wonderful anecdotes about how the BSNL exchanges were kept in operation with generators last year. This year was relatively easier for them!

Last year we had a cordless phone connected to the landline and it became unusable when there was no power to charge the battery. Thanks to that lesson, we had a wired phone this time.

The third, broadband cables. For the first time, I have something positive to say about BSNL broadband. They too were not affected as the cables were underground. My service provider ACT has overhead cables. Some are cut down by falling trees, some by citizens in order to move around.

It is a huge loss for the provider as kilometres of cables have to be re-installed. I expect it to take days.

In the meanwhile, I learnt to use my wife’s smartphone and publish posts via her Airtel 3G connection. I am getting the hang of typing on a touch screen and Google voice.

Less internet for few days of the year is a good detox, I guess! So now I am considering the purchase of a wireless box or a dongle so that the dependence on cables can be reduced. Any suggestions?

The fourth Cable TV. No hope getting any TV for next few days. I don’t watch it, but it helps my mother. Have long argued the use of dish TV with my wife. Maybe got to get that too.

With overhead phone lines and broadband lines cut, many card machines did not work. And people had only Rs. 2000 notes. So did the banks. ATMs did not work, but that was the case before Vardah too!

My wife told me that a day before Vardah, marshlands birds fled. They can always tell. A day after Vardah, birds only found in deep sea, 30 Kilometres from the shore (pelagic birds) were found inland!

She shot this from our terrace!

As always the power of diversification triumphed. Have a few thousands in cash at home last time was the lesson from Chennai floods. This year that cash ought to be in change!

There is a huge lesson here for risk management. These events are quite rare, but when they do happen, it will take weeks and months to recover. The same is true for a stock market crash. A real one – not the 1% or 2% falls celebrated at Asan Ideas for Wealth. It may happen only once a decade or so, but prepare for it, we must.

I must apologize to the trees of Chennai for making that crappy analogy. Many of you have fallen and it is an irreplaceable loss. In the city, you are responsible for shade, rain and clean air. Without you life is unimaginable. Even in death, you shall serve us – as furniture, doors, windows and furnishings.

It is going to be one hot summer.

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  1. One Hot summer ahead. True. with most of the tree cover gone, i think one better start saving to go to some cool place during april/may!

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