GEORGE TOWN: A weather expert said last weekend’s storm and strong winds that battered the northern states of the peninsula were not caused by Typhoon Lekima but was merely bad weather from the current monsoon period.
Malaysian Meteorological Department’s Mohd Hisham Mohd Anip said that with Lekima occurring thousands of kilometres away, it was highly unlikely the typhoon’s effects would be felt here.
Hisham told FMT that during the southwest monsoon, which occurs from late May to September, strong winds from the Indian Ocean converge with winds coming upwards from the southern Malacca Straits.
When they collide, he said, squall lines are formed, bringing strong winds and rain.
A squall is a violent burst of wind normally associated with significant weather such as thunder, hail, rain or snow, according to the United Kingdom Met Office.
The weather service categorises the speeds of squalls to be around 16 to 21 knots (29-38km/h). They also bring temporary increases in wind strength and typically last for a few seconds.
“It is impossible to have Lekima’s effect directly felt here, as we are thousands of kilometres from China. Indirectly, yes, it may affect us, but what happened over the weekend is something else.
“Squall lines can happen even without typhoons. It is a common feature with the states along the Malacca Straits,” the senior director of the National Aviation Meteorological Centre Malaysia said.
Hisham said a squall line that wreaked havoc in the northern states began late Friday night and ended Saturday morning, going as far as the east coast in Kelantan and Terengganu as well.
After that, two separate squall lines appeared in Selangor on Saturday morning, and south of Melaka and Batu Pahat in Johor today.
He said each squall line lasts about one to three hours.
“It is a common event and not a rare phenomenon, as most of us like to believe,” he said.
During Friday’s squall line, an average speed of 50 to 60 km/h was recorded at the Penang International Airport area, while the Butterworth Air Base recorded 100.8 km/h.
“The 50 to 60 km/h recorded in Penang is not rare. But the one over 100km/h is a rarity. However, we need to take note that these are quick, short gusts of wind and do not last long,” he said.
Hisham also said that despite the bad weather, Penang recorded only 20 to 30mm of rainfall.
Many homes in Penang, Kedah and Perlis were damaged by the storm and strong winds, in addition to hundreds of trees being uprooted.
In China, Typhoon Lekima has claimed the lives of 32, according to news reports, with 16 still missing as the typhoon made landfall on Saturday. Earlier, it barrelled through Taiwan with speeds close to 200km/h.
Lekima was the ninth typhoon to hit this year.