December Downpours Surprise Everyone

Monks have been watching the weather for centuries here, even longer than meteorologists.

But both agree they have seen nothing like the two December rainstorms that have soaked Phnom Penh and nearby pro­vinces, causing street flooding as bad as is usually seen in the normal “rainy” season.

According to Director of Me­teo­rology Seth Vannreth, 97.8 millimeters of rain fell in Phnom Penh Wednesday night, while 182.5 mm was measured at Po­chen­tong Airport, 140 mm in Kandal province, 54 mm in Svay Rieng province and 42 mm in Prey Veng province.

She said it was the heaviest December rainfall in the past 40 years. By comparison, she said a December 1996 storm that dump­ed 11.5 mm on Pochentong airport was considered quite heavy for that time of year.

It was the second major storm in a two-week period. Rains on Dec 12 were measured at 100.1 mm both in Phnom Penh and at Pochentong Airport.

Street and house flood­­­ing was heavy through­out Phnom Penh all Wednesday night and through Thursday. In addition to the oft-flooded area around the Royal Pa­lace and the Na­tional Muse­um, major boulevards such as Moni­vong, Mao Tse-tung, Sihanouk and Noro­dom were either flooded or jammed with traffic due to standing water on side streets.

For the second time in eight days, flooding in front of the National Assembly postponed a legislative session.

Seth Vannreth blamed the latest storm on a low-pressure area in the Gulf of Thailand, which she said also brought heavy rain to southern Vietnam and southern Thai­land.

Am Lim Heng, chief monk at Wat Champoh Kaek in Kandal province, said he didn’t know what to think about the storms.

“Since I have been born, I have never seen [December] rain like this,” he said. “It comes only in the night time. It is the strangest phenomenon I have ever seen.”

But Pang Soda, chief monk at Wat Phnom Penh Thmei in Kompong Cham province, saw a silver lining in the clouds.

“I predicted months ago that the rain would last until Decem­ber, that it would not end in October,” he said.

“This unusual rain is a sign that peace will start to prevail in our land.”

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