Each year, KUT is fortunate enough to host traveling journalists from around the world. Recently arrived in Austin is Lorrencia Nkrumah, a broadcast journalist at Citi 97.3 FM in the Republic of Ghana. What follows are her thoughts on her first weekend in Austin.
As a visiting journalist from Ghana, it is not surprising to wake up and find some parts of my capital Accra – or anywhere else, flooded. So when I came to the United States – and to Austin for the first time – I was a bit surprised by the rains that led to flooding in several areas.
In the midst of a multi- year drought, many locals were surprised too.
The rain, which started on Saturday night, flooded dozens of homes and led to the closure of several Austin-area roadways, parks, trails and even the cancellation of the final day of the Austin City Limits Music Festival. (I had a ticket and was personally shattered because Lionel Richie and some great musicians were billed to perform.)
So much rain fell so fast – as much as 12 inches in fewer than eight hours – that flash flood warnings blanketed the Central Texas region. As the rain continued to fall, mobile phone subscribers were alerted with repeated electronic warnings about the floods and the need to avoid low-water crossings and areas prone to flash floods.
My T-Mobile alert message buzzed with “Severe Threat Alert Message; Flash Flood warning this area till 30 7: am CDT; Avoid flood areas. Check local media. NWS.’’
The National Weather Service continues flood warnings in areas along the Colorado River and, with two to four more inches possible by Tuesday evening; local emergency management officials are monitoring the situation closely.
As a Ghanaian journalist, I have seen and covered several floods back home – to the extent that I can even predict what areas will be affected in the rainy season, and what the National Disaster Management Organization (NADMO) or Mayor Alfred Oko Vanderpuije will say.
In Ghana, due to choked drains and uncontrolled waste disposal – and a general attitude of not following proper procedures regarding building on waterways – there can be huge casualties when it rains for as little as four continuous hours in a day. People are displaced, livestock die, and there is a general outbreak of disease, particularly cholera.
Areas such as Kaneshie Market, Darkuman, Santa Maria, Odorkor, Kwame Nkrumah Circle and even some portions of the Dansoman Roundabout tend to be the hardest hit during flooding.
My visit to the states and particularly to Austin has shown a different approach in responding to floods and other related incidents. For instance, here police were able to rescue people from their homes and cars.
Texas and Ghana have both been susceptible to extreme weather over the years – flooding, and drought. In Ghana, our driest year was 1983. The ’83 drought left about 12,500,000 people affected.
In Texas, the drought has been characterized by wildfires that swept through the forests. But experts say, despite the rain, the drought is far from over. And the National Weather Service forecasts that there will be more rains in the coming days.
From a Ghanaian journalist’s point of view, Austin is an awesome place to be. Aside from the rains and floods, folks in Austin are diversified in their nature and very receptive.