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Tuesday, September 17 2019 @ 08:44 pm EDT

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Another Stationary Cold Front Could Produce Another Round of Flooding in Panama

WeatherAs the result of a cold front that is located along Panama's Caribbean coast, between Panama and Colombia, the National Civil Protection System has declared a yellow alert. "This phenomenon (storm system) has produced heavy rains, increased water level in some rivers and strong winds of up to 40 miles per hour," said the Director General of Sinaproc, Arturo Alvarado De Icaza. Alvarado de Icaza said the cold front, the product of an area of low pressure, is in the same position as the storm that occurred in Panama on 8 December 2010.

"The strong winds have damaged 69 homes in the province of Colon, and blown roofs off of houses in the provinces of Panama, Cocle, and Chiriqui, as well as caused intermittent and periods of heavy rainfall, from the center of Panama to the Darien," he added. As for the Bayano dam, he said the agency has been monitoring the situation at the dam since early Sunday morning, and they have personnel stationed at the dam, as well as in the community of El Llano in the district of Chepo.

He added that at 4:30 a.m. on Monday morning AES Panama issued a red alert, and they proceeded to open gates number 1 and 2 to a half meter, in order to release water, after the reservoir exceeded its maximum operating level. He also emphasized that there is a boating restriction in place from the Bayano dam to the sea, and that they expect this cold front to produce constant rains for at least the next 48 hours, according to data from the Forecast Center of Hydrometeorology Management of ETESA. (La Critica)

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Want To Know Why Your Drinking Water is Screwed Up? See This Real Color NASA Image of Lago Alajuela

WeatherBy DON WINNER for Panama-Guide.com - Heavy rains started falling in Panama two weeks ago, on Tuesday, 7 December 2010. The rains lasted for three solid days, and the amount of rainfall has been described as "historic" and "unprecedented." In fact, records were broken all over the country during that period but the heaviest amounts of rain fell on the Eastern part of the province of Panama down towards Chepo, as well as in the province of the Darien which borders with Colombia, and in the province of Colon, especially along the "upper coast" of Colon near Portobelo. The tremendous amounts of rainfall caused mudslides all over the country. Massive amounts of mud and debris were washed into Lake Alajuela, which provides drinking water for the capital of Panama City through the water purification plant in Chilibre.

Turbidity In The Water: Since this event started, Panama's National Institute of Aqueducts and Sewers (IDAAN) has been struggling to continue to provide drinking water to their customers. This morning an IDAAN spokesman who has more than 30 years of experience working with IDAAN and the water treatment plant in Chilibre said they have never seen levels of turbidity this high in the source - Lago Alajuela. He said that a few days ago the numbers of particles in the water was as high as 700 and yesterday it had gone down to 350 or so, but normally they should be seeing a number between 5 and 10 for standard operation. When asked when the situation would return to normal his official answer was "I don't know, and no one knows" how long it would take for turbidity levels in Lake Alajuela to return to normal.

The Affect on Panama City: Operations and Maintenance crews at the Chilibre water treatment plant have to constantly clean the muck from the filters and the plant is running at a reduced capacity. IDAAN advises that everyone should be using the water coming from the taps to bathe, wash clothes, or flush toilets, but if you're going to drink it or use it to cook with then it should be boiled first. IDAAN has been trying to "ration" water service around Panama City, however there are some neighborhoods located in higher elevations - such as Bethania and Villa de las Fuentes - and apparently the pressure in the "system" never gets high enough to bring water up to these customers. The net result is that thousands of people have been going without water service for weeks. And those who do have water coming out of the tap have seen the water come and go as the service is supposedly "spread around" town on a kind of distribution schedule, using IDAAN's valves. Only those who have large water tanks on the roofs of their buildings have been spared.

NASA's True Color Image of Lake Alajeula: Today NASA published this true color image of Lake Alajuela which reflects the level of turbidity and the amount of dirt and mud suspended in the water;

  • In early December 2010, the Panama Canal closed for only the third time in its 96-year history. Two artificial lakes linked to the canal, Gatún and Alajuela, reached their highest-recorded water levels, prompting authorities to close the canal for 17 hours. The canal reopened on December 9.

  • Lago Alajuela serves as a reservoir for the Panama Canal, which lies to the lake’s southwest. On December 17, 2010, several days after the canal’s temporary closure, the Advanced Land Imager (ALI) on NASA’s Earth Observing-1 (EO-1) satellite captured this natural-color image of Lago Alajuela. This image has been rotated so north is to the right. The canal lies off the top left corner of the image.

  • Torrential rains can erode soils, delivering heavy sediment loads to streams, rivers, and lakes. Ranging in color from dull green to tan, Lago Alajuela appears choked with sediment, contrasting sharply with the surrounding green forest.

  • Panama is accustomed to heavy precipitation. The rainy season lasts from May to January. The Panama Canal actually depends on huge quantities of water—each trip through the canal requires some 52 million gallons. Still, heavy rains in early December 2010 overwhelmed the region. The same rains that raised Lago Alajuela’s water level and filled it with sediment also forced thousands of residents to evacuate, washed out roads, and caused deadly landslides.

Copyright 2010 by Don Winner for Panama-Guide.com. Go ahead and use whatever you like as long as you credit the source. Salud.

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Centennial Bridge Completely Closed Due To Erosion and Mudslides

WeatherLate this afternoon, Panama's Ministry of Public Works (MOP) announced that the Centennial Bridge, affected by heavy rains, will be completely closed as of Friday, 17 December 2010, that is to say the operation to return from Panama City to the Western sector of the province of Panama was suspended. (La Estrella)

Editor's Comment: It's going to take a lot of work to repair the damage done to the approach to the Centennial Bridge.

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More Than 225,000 Domestic Animals Killed by Flooding in Panama

WeatherThe Panamanian government reported today that about 225,000 animals died in three provinces, resulting from the floods in Panama last week. Panamanian Minister of Agricultural Development (MIDA), Emilio Kieswetter, presented a preliminary report at a press conference detailing the affects of the heavy rains in the towns in the provinces of Panama, Colon, and the Darien. He said as of 15 December 2010, about 222,000 birds (poultry), 2,000 heads of cattle, and 350 pigs were killed in the district of Chepo, in the eastern province of Panama, and there were another 600 head of cattle killed in the Darien.

As for the Caribbean province of Colon, the worst affected areas were in the districts of Portobelo, Santa Isabel, and the "lower coast" of Colon. In addition to incurring losses of animals, in unspecified amounts, the entire planting of agricultural production was destroyed. However, Kieswetter noted that the area of El Llano, in Chepo, more than 100,000 birds (poultry) survived, which meet the requirements for human consumption.

The Ministry of Health established a sanitary cordon on 14 December in the affected communities of Chepo to prevent epidemics and diseases, as was also implemented in the Darien, in the border areas with Colombia. The National Institute of Aqueducts and Sewers began earlier this week a temporary program of potable water rationing because the water treatment plants in the Panama City area were affected by sedimentation. According to the Civil Protection System (Sinaproc) rains in these areas left at least 10 dead, 2,720 homeless, 13,071 people and 2,586 homes affected, as well as bridges and roads destroyed. (Panama America)

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"If 125,000 Panama Guide Readers each gave a $1 donation..."

WeatherBy DON WINNER for Panama-Guide.com - Since I started this effort to collect donations on behalf of Greg Coy, several people have made the same observation. It goes something like "if every one of Panama Guide's 125,000 readers made a $1 donation, then that would do it..." Greg Coy's wife Susanna was killed last Wednesday in a mudslide in Portobelo, along with her adult son Pablo, his wife, and their infant baby girl. Their house and restaurant was also destroyed, and now Greg is in the Social Security hospital in Colon with a crushed pelvis. His son and daughter will be flying down to Panama this week to be with him.

So Far $1,850 Collected in Donations: As of this writing, readers have donated $1,850 dollars to provide some relief to Greg Coy and his family members. I will continue to use this article to document the donations as they are made. People are using PayPal, making cash donations in hand, depositing money to bank accounts, writing checks, or what have you. When Kristian and Josh Coy arrive on Thursday, I will be meeting them at the Tocumen International Airport and will hand over whatever has been collected thus far.

I'm Asking, Again... Please find a way to make some kind of a donation to help Greg Coy. This family has been devastated - and they need our help. Right now if I divide the $1,850 dollars received in donations by the 125,000 readers I see every month - that comes to about 1.5 cents per. I think we can do better than that, don't you? Hey man, it's Christmas. Please ask the members of your groups and organizations to help as well. Thanks.

Copyright 2010 by Don Winner for Panama-Guide.com. Go ahead and use whatever you like as long as you credit the source. Salud.

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Three Public Markets Closed in Panama City Due To Lack of Water

Weather The Mayor's Office of Panama City has ordered the closure of three markets: the Seafood market, the San Felipe Neri market, and the produce market. They took this measure due to the lack of drinking water and to ensure public safety. A press release from the institution said in the produce market only sales of food have been suspended. They added that the constant rains have affected the production of drinking water from the Miraflores plant, which supplies drinking water to areas where these three markets operate. The mayoral authorities seek to avoid contamination from handling of food products, due to the lack of clean running water, and they clarified that once the water service is restored then the suspension will be lifted. (La Estrella)
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Centennial Bridge Roadway Failed Due To Lack of Maintenance

WeatherAn inspection made by the Road Commission of the Panamanian Society of Engineers and Architects (SPIA) on the road leading to the Centennial Bridge determined that poor maintenance was the cause of its collapse. "This could have been avoided," said Miriam Tejada de Solis, president of the SPIA, who on Saturday took part in the inspection, along with three other engineers of the Road Commission. According to Solis, they could detect that the road's storm drains were damaged. According to the experts, this caused the fill slope to fail, due to the constant seepage of water that could have been caused by the lack of functioning storm drains. "Until the water problem is controlled, this situation is always going to be reoccurring," said Solis, who explained that while the inspection did not have specialized equipment, their experience allows them to diagnose the critical problems observed in the lower part of the access road, where there are bumps and sharp cracks, which caused the roadway to fall apart. She said the collapse was actually a slow process, and the problem has been growing due to a lack of consistent preventative maintenance, inspection, and monitoring, and these are the consequences. The President of the SPIA clarified that the structure of the Centennial Bridge itself is stable, it is not in any danger, and there are no signs of damage to the bridge. In the opinion of the three engineers, the Ministry of Public Works (MOP) should initiate a hydraulic and geological study, because water becomes a threat to this type of construction.

For her part, Marisol Acosta, of the Department of Inspection of the organization, said the MOP made a geological survey of the ground of the ramp leading to the Centennial Bridge. (Panama America)

Editor's Comment: The roadway leading to the bridge was built over landfill - dirt and rocks trucked in an dumped to fill the gap between the existing land (rocks) and the bridge. It seems obvious, even to me, that you would not want to have clogged runoff drains and large amounts of rainwater running under the road and through the dirt fill. Because, obviously, eventually it's going to erode away, right? "Maintenance" is still a dirty word in Panama. Panamanians are famous for not maintaining anything - just ride it until it fails, and then fix it. That's the way they do it here. Seriously.

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"Unprecedented Levels" of Rainfall in Panama

Weather The amount of rainfall this year in Panama is unprecedented, said yesterday Berta Olmedo, who oversees the management of the department of Hydro Meteorology of the Electricity Transmission Company SA (Etesa). And now this institution says the rains will not stop: in the next 24 hours additional rainfall is expected in the provinces of Panama, Colon, and Darien. Olmedo said so far this year it has rained more than usual, or what he called "historical averages." According to data from the meteorological station of Tocumen, located in the eastern sector of the province of Panama, from 1 to 12 December 265 mm of rainwater fell, while the normal amount for that period is 63.8 mm. That it to say, 315% more than expected

With regards to problems with the water supply being faced by residents who live in the higher parts of San Miguelito and Panama, the director of the Institute of Aqueducts and Sewage Systems (Idaan), Manuel González Ruiz, said he did not know when the water service being provided by the water treatment plant at Chilibre would be stabilized. Meanwhile, in Cañita and El Llano, in the district of Chepo, hundreds of people improvised piers yesterday and reach out to the different communities of Panama and the Darien, to the fact that the waters of the Bayano river had not yet returned to normal levels.

In related news, the Ministry of Education reported that 300 teachers have been transferred by air from the Darien and Kuna Yala. In this regard, teachers union leaders expressed their concerns, because only in the areas of Chepo and the Darien there are about 2,000 teachers working.

The National System of Civil Protection reported that the number of people affected rose to 13,000, and there are 2,720 people being housed in temporary shelters. (La Prensa)

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Stories From People Who Were In Portobelo

WeatherBy DON WINNER for Panama-Guide.com - I received the following account of the events in Portobelo from Shea Nash - "(All comments in quotations are direct quotes and were given with permission to use however by those represented). Day: December 8, 2010 (Panamanian Mother’s day). Time: 1:00 PM - Who died: Susana (Greg’s wife), Paco (Susana’s son), Anna (Paco’s wife), and Nicole (Paco and Anna’s 1 year old child)

Susana and Greg: Run a small restaurant, Brisas Del Mar, on the road in Buena Ventura. Behind their restaurant is their house. On the Portobelo side is a large, steep hill. The other side is a valley with a river. The road into Portobelo crosses this bridge. They are open 7 days a week and had taken one day off in the last 8 months. Susana was launched into the street and buried, and Greg was in the building and it caved in on top of him. Both were recovered alive out from under the ruble. They were taken in Pat’s truck and Rey’s vehicle a mile and a half down the road toward the Sabanitas clinic before another giant landside blocked the entire road. They waited an hour and a half to two hours at the landslide until a tractor showed up and started clearing it and the ambulances waited on the other side, Greg and Susana were hand carried through the mud and landslide and Susana died as she was being loaded on the ambulance. The two were loaded on separate ambulances the clinic sent them on to Colon. Greg didn’t know until a day later Susana had died. Greg is now in Hospitalaio Manuel Amador Guerrero Amador Guerro a hospital in Colon. His injuries are extensive; his pelvis is broken in three places. (more)

A Mudslide in Portobelo, Panama, wiped out the home of Greg Coy and killed his family.

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Teachers In Remote Areas Still Need To Be Evacuated

WeatherThe secretary general of the Association of Educators Veragüenses, Juan Ramón Herrera, called for help form the government authorities, because they have received multiple calls from teachers who remain isolated in the areas of Kuna Yala and Yavisa in the Darien. Herrera said teachers have stated there is no water or electricity and that the community is running out of food. He said teachers are hoping Education Minister Lucy Molinar will keep her promise to evacuate the teachers as soon as possible, and if necessary to ask for international assistance in the form of helicopters and equipment in order to remove the teachers, and to serve the affected population as it should be. According to the teachers' union leader there are more than 200 teachers who have not yet been evacuated, and not fewer, as Minister Molinar has stated.

About 400 families were seriously affected by flooding in the area of Yavisa, in the Darién province of the Republic of Panama.

For his part, the Director General of Education, Raymundo Hurtado Lay, said they are not standing idly by with their arms crossed, and they started to evacuate the teachers as of last Friday. Hurtado Lay asked the teachers union leaders to not take advantage of the misfortune of others and the crisis we are living through in these moments to misinform the public. According to information held by MEDUCA, there are 32 teachers in the area of Yavisa who remain to be evacuated as far as the sector of Meteti, and that four airplanes departed from Albrook at 8:00 am this morning. Meanwhile in the area of Kuna Yala there are another 60 teachers who have yet to be evacuated. (Panama America)

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