The Kenya Meteorological Department has issued a warning about a high probability, 99 percent to be precise, of heavy rainfall across various parts of the country as El Niño makes a comeback this year.
What is El Nino?
Table of Contents
El Nino is a climate phenomenon that occurs when the Pacific or Indian Oceans around the equator warms up and causes heavy rains. This change in temperature has serious implications for many parts of the world, including Kenya.
El Niño is characterized by above-average warming of the ocean surface in the central and eastern tropical Pacific Ocean. During this period, east winds blow weaker than usual. This phenomenon typically occurs every 3 to 5 years, causing excessive rainfall and flooding in the East Africa region.
Addressing journalists in Nairobi on Wednesday, the weatherman stated that the Lake Victoria Basin region, Kisii, Elgeyo Marakwet, Bungoma, Trans Nzoia, West Pokot, Vihiga, Laikipia, Nakuru, and Narok counties are expected to experience heavy continuous rainfall. The rainy season will commence in September and continue until January, with the peak expected in October.
In the north-western counties of Turkana, Marsabit, and Samburu, occasional rainfall above the long-term average for the season is expected, as announced by the meteorological department.
“In the highlands east of the Rift Valley, including Nairobi, rainfall above the season’s long-term average is anticipated throughout the season. The rainfall will be well-distributed spatially,” added the department.
El Nino in Kenya 2023:
In the lowlands, rainfall above the long-term average for the season is expected, while in the northeastern counties, occasional rainfall slightly above average for the season will be experienced. Wajir and Mandera counties will receive the highest amount of rainfall.
The weatherman also highlighted several areas likely to be prone to flooding, including Nyakach, Nyando, lower areas of River Nzoia, Winam Gulf, and lower areas of River Sondu in Western Kenya. In the Rift Valley region, flooding is likely to occur in Gilgil, Narok town, and Suswa, while the coastal towns of Mwatate, Tana River delta, and Mwatate are identified as high-risk areas.
Other areas identified as potential flood-prone zones include Lodwar and Lokichar in north-eastern Kenya, where flash floods are expected due to a high number of seasonal rivers. Major urban centers like Nairobi, Naivasha, Nakuru, and Mombasa are also at risk.
Additionally, Kenyans have been cautioned about landslides in areas characterized by water-logged soils, such as West Pokot, Kericho, Elgeyo Marakwet, Mt Elgon, Narok, Nakuru, Baringo, Murang’a, and areas around Kilungu in Makueni County.
In March, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) warned that El Niño would return this year following a three-year La Niña phase. La Niña involves the cooling of sea-surface temperatures across the east-central equatorial Pacific, with stronger east winds.
The world experienced a third consecutive La Niña event in 2022 and early 2023, a rare occurrence that has happened only twice since 1950. La Niña events are typically associated with wetter conditions in Australia and drier conditions in the United States of America, South America, and East Africa.
In East Africa, the impact on cereal production was particularly devastating, with several countries experiencing multiple seasons of failed crops, triggering famine alerts in Somalia in the first half of 2022. According to the FAO, the 2023 La Niña event officially concluded in March 2023.
How to prepare for El Nino/excessive rains – 10 Tips:
- Make sure that your home has a rain-proofing system, such as gutters or downspouts, to divert water away from the foundation of your house.
- Be aware of the risks associated with living in a flood zone and plan accordingly by keeping essential belongings in waterproof containers.
- Store any valuable items on higher floors or upper cabinets in case of flooding.
- Have sandbags or tarps on hand to help reduce the risk of pollutants entering your home during heavy rains.
- Regularly inspect and maintain drainage systems around your property, such as culverts and ditches, to prevent water from pooling up around your home
- Keep an emergency kit with supplies such as a first-aid kit, flashlights, raincoats, and non-perishable food in case of an evacuation.
- Trim trees regularly to reduce the risk of branches breaking or falling onto your home or property during storms.
- Monitor the weather forecasts and listen to instructions from your local weather station or emergency officials.
- Have a plan in place for evacuating your home in case of flooding or other severe storms.
- Install sump pumps to quickly and effectively remove any standing water from the basement of your home.
Places in Kenya to Avoid During Excessive El Nino Rains:
- Nyando River region and landslides during heavy rains.
- Coastal regions that are easily susceptible to flooding from rising sea levels should be avoided as much as possible.
- Roadways, bridges, and streets should also be avoided due to the risk of flash flooding or mudslides that can occur suddenly due to the increased rainfall amounts.
- Areas near dams and reservoirs should also be avoided as they can easily overflow their banks during extended periods of rainfall.
- High-elevation areas are at risk for landslides, mudslides, and rockslides due to the increased water pressure from El Nino rains.
- Steep slopes should also be avoided due to the risk of landslides and soil erosion.
- River beds can quickly become filled with debris during heavy rains, so it is important to stay away from rivers when excessive rainfall is expected.
- Urban areas are prone to flash flooding due to the increased paved surfaces that do not absorb water very easily.
- Areas that have recently experienced wildfires should also be avoided as the already-weakened soil can easily erode away due to the increased rainfall amounts.