Framing The Rain
The coverage of 2017 El Niño event on FACTORTIERRA.NET was between reporting and teaching.
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By Nelson Peñaherrera Castillo
"The wind and the water destroyed all to us" (painting)
Provided by Arte para Todos.
The heavy rains period presented at Peruvian Northern, and particularily in Piura Region's Coast between January 2017 second fortnight and April 2017 first fortnight, took us unprepared. The
official forecasts scheduled that for the previous Summer, that
motivated a whole movement of the authorities for making prevention
works inclusive, but the rains delayed twelve months, when everybody
supposed the apparent drought that had been reported since 2016
second half could enlarge already beginning the next year.
As a collective
experience, the periods of heavy rains in Piura mark generations: 1961,
1972, 1983, 1998. Almost statistically, each Piura habitant will
experience a natural event catalogued as El Niño or such similar
characterized somewhere in lifetime, or more than once in lifetime. In
my particular case, three times adding 2017, although we had also very
likely episodes in 1992, 2001, 2006 and 2008.
For FACTORTIERRA.NET, this is the second rains period deserving a special attention. The first one was in 2001.
In both cases,
the idea of our website was not only following up and analyzing the
facts but mainly educating our audience on their nature. In our
coverage's philosophy, we think when we educate on the origin and
history of the natural events we are exposed to, our response before,
during, an after it happens uses to be better than whose have not
ssearched this type of information.
This led us to
learn that, in addition to rains and their consequences, other natural
events deserving our attention are quakes and tsunamis, frosts,
droughts (or hydric stress periods, as called), heavy blows, anomale
tides, and all the consequences related to climate change and global
warming in general, including erosive processes, pollution, and
of our coverages is the science. As a set of methodical procedures
allowing to understand our reality objectively, we take its sightings
as sources for generating our contents and serving them to our audience
on our website, allied media, and our social media. we think the
reliability we have to base upon the science will allow us to take best
decisions for our individual and collective life.
And that is the
reason why unlike other media, FACTORTIERRA.NET does not pursuit the
first hand inmediacy but precision. And this value is not ever gotten
with the first fact but the contrast of many data those generate
and compare each other and to the ones generated previously. This
procedure takes some chronological time but it guarantees that
one our audience will receive could be taken as an untemporary
reference allowing to increase knowledge and improving attitude.
Conditions of the sea in front of Piura Region in January 2017.
Graphic by NOAA, provided by IMARPE.
A virtual and on-the-field monitoring network
Based upon this
big premise is what the coverage of the 2017 heavy rains period
began just where the anomaly uses to be reported for the first time:
the sea. A day of beach during the Summer became the first field
assignment inside our special following-up -many stories we produce
almost ever are caught unschedully- when the water of Pacific Ocean in
Colán Beach had an unusual behavior: it was more transparent than
usual, less salthy than usual, warmer than usual, and it was
evident that the flow pattern was north-south instead of the
usual south-north. [Read the story]
journalism uses to set up its coverages from the empiricism; it needs
the scientific analysis to offer a consistent explanation to the
audience but exposed like it can be understood by the most of people.
Then, understanding and preventing an extraordinary rain period might
happen, the slogan was explaining what could happen and why would
happen. In a first time, we were not able to forecast more consequences
than historically happened after previous rainy events, but ignoring
the possible intensity, we preferred to trust in official data and
forecasts as information sources.
Other preventtions taken by the crew were to establish two types of monitoring: virtual, and on-the-field.
The first one by checking out the meteorological data provided by AccuWeather,
one of the firms on meteorological information for media
worldwide, reknown for its precision and experience. Data on
temperature, feeling, and weather conditions would give us clues for
projecting possible anomale episodes, especially on the coastal low
pressure zone from suyo District, at the north, to Upper Piura Valley,
at the southeast.
us real-time data and forecasts for the locations of Suyo, Las Lomas,
Tambogrande, Chulucanas, Morropón and Canchaque. Additionally, we had
data for Ayabaca, Huancabamba, Paita, Piura, Sechura, Sullana and
Talara Cities, plus representative landmarks from a geographical
perspective, previous arbitrarian division of the Piura Region's
territory into shores (Talara, Paita and Sechura Provinces), Coast
(Sullana and Piura Provinces, and lowlands in ayabaca and Morropón
Provinces) and Andes (highlands of Ayabaca, Huancabamba, and Morropón
Provinces). The selected locations from the AccuWeather's offer were:
Máncora, san Lucas de Colán, and Chulliyache on the shores; Lancones,
Querecotillo, La Huaca, and Paimas on the coast; and Sapillica, Frías,
Chalaco, Montero, Curilcas, Talaneo, and Huarmaca on the Andes.
Likewise, we had monitoring the cities of Macará, Loja and
Cariamanga in ecuador, as they are in Catamayo Basin, the main
tributary of Chira River at the south of that nation.
decision was to activate a monitoring network on the field with our
ccrews in Tambogrande and Chulucanas, which main task was
reporting just-started rains. This information was compplemented to the
one that many people was giving us as volunteers on Facebook, once we proved they were true sources.
Finally, it was
the coverage of other media. Then, mixing these three sources, we not
only could warn the audience about a happening rain, but we could
prevent te possible places it could move. We are using this strategy
about eight years ago, and it worked to us in the most of cases. We add
to this te own experience of FACTORTIERRA.NET about Piura Region's
historical and geographical information management, what allowed us to
extraofficially forecast possible meteorological behaviors. Even,
when we posted our forecasts, we warned the public they were not
Colán Beach, Piura, during January 2017, the day we discovered anomalies in the sea.
Photo by Arturo Peñaherrera.
Bearing the water and bad inttentions
When the first
rains broke, we put all this methodology on. At this point, it is
necessary to clarify that FACTORTIERRA.NET is a low-budget media, so at
the technical level it had to trust the existent communications
private network was operative. In other words, the services of home and
cellular telephone and the ADSL Internet network, especially,
were not shut down, which wework from our West sullana City
headquarters and where we connect to the world. Another external aspect
was to trust in the electric network of the region was not interrupted
neither for supplying the headline services, updated each four hours,
from 6:00 to 18:00 (Lima time), and extraordinarily everytime the news
broke, and usually 30 minutes after it happened to avoid unnecessary
alarms, ever itime it was opportune.
One of the most
dramatic episodes was to report almost real-time Piura River's overload
on March 27th, 2017, that provocated the flood of Tambogrande, Piura,
Castilla, and Catacaos Cities and the whole Lower Piura Valley. We
informed the fact almost since the beginning itself, when a heavy rain
fell over Morropón and Buenos Aires Districts at the night of March
25th, and following down the overflow during the 26th, adding the
hourly reports of Operations Center for Regional emergency (COER as in
At his point,
something we learned after the March 3rd, 2017's rain, that affected
Tambogrande City, was the Piura River ooverloaded just in San Lorenzo
Valley. The discovery was not ours but it already had been warned by
specialists since 1997 and proved during the 1998 event. We realized
that while the data between Los ejidos Dam and Tambogrande were a
25%-30% difference, between Tambogrande and Chulucanas were around
100%. we also knew the Piura River's course within both segments was
similar. Then, the logical answer was the tributaries between
Chulucanas and Tambogrande gave huge loads to the river. [Read the story]
This led us to
prevent that 1400-cubic-meter-per-second score that Chulucanas
was as maximum could duplicate approaching Tambogrande, especially when
it has rained the night of 25th at highlands of Andean Western Range's
occidental slope. That is why our news service by Facebook on 26th
included a warning by our own risk for the people of Medium and Lower
Piura Valleys to take caution. We also shared the alert notification
released by the Regional Government of Piura, in the morning of March
As it was known,
Tambogrande became to have 2900 cubic meters per second in the
afternoon of 26th, and more than 3400 in Piura Metro Area the next day.
While our social
media tried to cover the fact as fast as can be possible to apply
the protocol we had designed, we thought convenient to understand the
lesson inside such that disgrace on our website. Initially, we wanted
to explain chronologically what happened those 48 hours, but
emerged the question about why the fflood of Medium and Lower Piura was
possible despite the lack of prevention. When we investigated, we found
a series of historical mistakes going back beyond even this century.
When we published the story, our intttention was not to excuse the
actual administration but to warn it already had historically happened
before, that happened that time, and that could happen if
critical aspects offered by the science were not considered, previously
studied and warned by Piura's scientific community. [Read the story]
disasters were not natural only. The another battle front were social
media because the period was not only abundant in rains butfake
news generating panic, so we incorporated the task of discarding or
confirmming the versions from unaccurate to weird, as they were
breaking specially on Facebook.
So, while some
psychosocials creator brought down Cáceres Bridge, at least three
times, with other colleagues we did the prodigy of rebuilding it
within 15 minutes around. We've got to discard a rare phenomenom what
Piura River was capable to generate anti-gravity and flowing up, not
flowing down as Physics teaches. And with EEl Tiempo newspaper's Teo
Zavala, we got to prove neither Mickey Mouse as a magician apprentice
was capable to make the Limón de Porculla Dam's water to jump up
towards Sechura Desert.
efficiently ignited by the social media made us inclusive to explain
ddozens of basic concepts as the origin of the bolt, the formation of
the clouds, the hydric cycle of water, why it rains in Piura. In the
end, it was a pretty grateful pedagogical exercise, because it allowed
us to understand that if people trusted in us, our duty was to give
them truth, as well as doing some relaxation therapy with many users.
Inclusive, the reiki and energy therapies specialist, and journalist,
Christian Palacios decided to have free sessions to the community to
manage the stress caused by the rains, and the advertising was provided
by our network.
As a very
personal note, I would add that the coverage of this event questionned
me too much about the dimension of my own job, which I felt to invade
the Education land not being specifically qualified for that. Maybe the
journalism must consider the evolution of the concept, subject, and
object of study and work, at least. If we are dedicated to tell
the story as it happens, perhaps it is not already enough. Perhaps, we
have to incorporate many tools of Pedagogy and make them ours to serve
better to the public in an age when the social media became similar or
more authority than the digital media as we know them, inclusive. I
must stress many colleagues working as journalists are very good
teachers. Thus, maybe we are getting narrow and even fusing to
their object and subject of study and work more than any other job or
profession inside the Liberal Arts.
Rains radar installed at Ecuadorian Southern.
Photo provided by University of Piura.
Our coverage on
El Niño event followed up the same storyline even after the rain period
finished at all. Further the announcement of not allowing any
re-settlement of the people at risky zones, we decided to investigate
which ones effectively do not mean more danger for the people. The
finding was disturbing: Geological, Miner and Metallurgic Institute,
depending on the Ministry of energy and Mines, had made in 2008 a study
in the 64 districts of Piura that time where it detailed one by one
everything happened in 2017. Our inmediate question was if the
authorities knew the existence of this document, and if affirmative,
why it was not considered. The second baffling finding was the
Regional Government of Piura already ahd generally warned in 2005 about
which zones of the region had vulneribility degrees.
We combined the
data of both works, and we wrote a story which in a very simple way
explaining all that information. For didactical effects, we identified
four high-vulneribility zones in case of natural disasters: the whole
Piura Valley, the coastal plateaus zone in Paita and Talara, Lower
Chira Valley, and the whole Huancabamba Valley. we ask today how much
useful the information of our specialists is when our authorities take
decisions and the community claims. Is it really responsing a technical
aspect or giving up by the political pressure? [Read the story]
FACTORTIERRA.NET perspective, the science -whether we agree or don't-
has the answers, so it is only enough a wide criterion and
work in a strategic and planned way based upon it for preventing and
saving lives. That is why we are committed to follow educating the not
only local but national and international community with technical,
scientific, and possible proposals those allow to give the
re-habilitation, re-building, and re-planning process with greater
criteria, greater fluency.
times, when we believe the things are what we like but what they are
objectivelly, the victory of myth over the fact sets up like a real
threat to every field of knoledge and development in our community, a
kind of involution of that knowledge to the levels it had during the
Middle Age. And when the media turn into efficient vehicles of
that process, we are not contributing to solve problems but generating
conflicts - we have no the last word, we allow the words to flow with
order and claritty by ranking what it is said with the help of the
other science's branches.
We believe that
our editorial commitment is to open our space for the specialists with
coherent technical proposals, unions, scholars, and the scientific
community in general not to release what they consider is going to
improve the life of the people and their environment only, but they
begin to work with the journalism aside -or like our job in the social
media age starts to name- for seeking creative ways that
information to impact in a favorable manner on the people. As I said up
before, more than a pure informative effort, it will be a big
pedagogical crousade. But if something we have understood in our
work the last years is it will never be possible to form a possitive
attitude if we don't provide real knowledge, not skewed and
That is the
reason why we are working with Inundación Nunca Más Platform to release
proposals in that level, like we did recently withe idea of Architect
Julio Gianella, with realizing information and interesting
futuristic vision for Piura City to grow out and reduce its
vulneribility levels at the same time in case of future El Niño events.
[Read the story]
We also released
information about the rains radar installed by the university of Piura
and how the National University of Piura's meteorological station
works, those can be found with much other relevant information on http//www.factortierra.net/tt/elnino.html
another personal note, I think the information protocols provided to
the public by the media and the authorities must be reviwed, what must
be written, must be available for the people inclusive, and must prove
an effective methodology, as it happens in places constantly hit by
natural disasters, like the case of hurricanes blowing the Caribbean
and the Gulf of Mexico, althought not exempt of similar or greater
political controversy than El Niño, of course.
experience of hurricanes, and even the coverage of quakes in Mexico and
Chile, the lead voice comes from the scientists, upon the authorities
and the media make their contents. In fact, the Chilean protocols for
notification and coverage of quakes are examples we must learn,
replicate and innovate.
Our point is
while we don't increase the knowledge, we never could achieve a
possitive attitude. For this reason, we think our job is not
limited just to inform but to add doses of education and
kindness with the clear inttention that people take the better
decisions in a natural way.
Indeed, it will
be a challenge in a scenario very charged of partidarian
politics, this year in special when our great fear is many postulations
take advantage from the ignorance and the frustration of the community
for promising impossibles or unviables, but we will not give up what we
consider our duty and the right of the people at the same time.
on we think we must work hard, which we request for the support of
Psychologists College, is helping the people to manage better the
panic symptoms and speak clearily about what seems to be a massive
post-traumatic stress syndrom, not only in the population in general
but inclusive in many of our colleagues, who begin to experience
anxiety episodes just when they know or perceive a rain is coming on,
and for extension when any natural event breaks, like we also notice
when we report quakes.
particular, it will be necessary to work with the local scientific
community for educating ourselves and to educate everyone before
nothing, then reporting, taking decisions after that. That is why
FACTORTIERRA.NET offers its whole experience for being aligned to the
academy and the scientific community of Piura with the purpose of
participating actively in activities like workshops, courses, talkings,
advisories, or consultancies to get all this ambitious plan and to give
its hyperspace parcel for publishing, increasing the knowledge an
improving the attitude.
Our major threat
at this moment is that we don't have available resources like
supporting bigger media than ours for making more intensive fielkd
coverages, but we are talking about the formation of alliances which
allow to get them to bring our services thinking on precision, quality,
and trascendence, not only for who speak Spanish but everybody in
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