Almost all weather models agree that the coming El Niño will one of the strongest on record, and could be the strongest since statistics have been kept.
According to Rodney Martinez, director of the International Center for Research on El Niño (CIIFEN), it is critically important that people living in the coastal areas of Ecuador be prepared for a very strong event.
“They need to know what is coming and the impact it could have,” he said. “At this stage of its development, it is strong and getting stronger and poses a very dangerous threat.”
According to CIIFEN, temperatures in the eastern tropical Pacific could rise an additional two degrees Celsius in October, making it stronger than the devastating 1997-1998 El Niño that caused widespread devastation on the coasts of Ecuador and Peru. CIIFEN said it will be considerably stronger that the El Niños of 1972-1973 and 1982-1983, which also caused extensive damage.
Martinez says his concern is the large increase of construction on the coast since the 1997-1998 El Niño. “We estimate that the number of structures has almost double since then and we are afraid many of them are in danger areas for landslides and erosion,” he said. He added that hundreds of structures were destroyed in the last El Niño.
Risk management officials in coastal provinces have been meeting for months developing evacuation plans and other emergency responses. A primary concern is the destruction of roads and the isolation of communities. During the 1997-1998 El Niño, some communities were without road access for months. “We learned a lot from that event” Martinez said. “That knowledge is helping in the planning process.”
During his Saturday national radio and television broadcast, President Rafael Correa reminded the country of the dangers of El Niño. “All our concern is focused on Cotopaxi,” he said. “We cannot forget, however, that we have another natural disaster looming in the Pacific Ocean.”
Weather forecasters say that the first effects of the El Niño are already being felt in Ecuador. Much of the coast has recorded above-average rainfall for this time of year and the mountain region is seeing more cloud-cover than usual.
According to CIIFEN, the worst of the El Niño will be felt from November through February 2016.