|People on a make-shift floating device crossing floodwaters near Don Muang's flooded airport in Bangkok [AFP]
We have two major stories that have refused to leave the world of weather for many months now, and they come from both ends of the spectrum. Thailand’s worst floods in 50 years are still making the headlines, whilst the worst drought in over 100 years is still giving cause for concern across the Southern Plains of the USA.
Fortunately, there are, at last, reasons to be optimistic as far as both of these dire situations are concerned. In the case of Thailand, and Bangkok in particular, the flood waters started to recede on Monday in central parts of the city. At the Lad Prao intersection at the heart of the capital, water levels have fallen by half from 60 cm to 30cm. Traffic has finally started to return to the streets and the shops have begun to re-open.
Floodwaters have swamped at least 12 districts in Bangkok but the financial district is still dry.The giant sandbags that officials stacked in the north of the city have prevented more water from flooding the area. However, there has naturally been much frustration across the areas that have remained under water.
Around 100 angry residents within the inundated north did cause some damage to a major floodwall in the district of Don Mueang on Sunday. The authorities have now stepped in but the protestors have threatened further damage if the government insists on repairing the damage.
The water to the north of Bangkok has been waist-deep in places for over a month now and at least 562 people have died in this year’s flooding. Bangkok’s second airport at Don Mueang has been closed for nearly three weeks but the main airport to the east of the city centre has remained open.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the world, it’s the lack of water that has been causing widespread problems. The scorching summer heat is now a not so distant memory for the Southern Plains of the USA, but the extreme drought it helped to create is still ongoing.
The 12 months from October 2010 through September 2011 were the driest for that 12-month period in Texas since 1895, when the state began keeping rainfall records. Early October’s rain brought a slight respite, but did little to change the overall drought situation.
There is rain in the forecast this week from eastern Texas to New England and that rain could well be heavy at times. Some of the drought stricken zone could see as much as 50 to 60 mm of rain over the next 48 hours. Ironically, that is likely to lead to flash flooding for a time here.