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National Day

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MonsoonMaiden

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Today is Singapore's Independence Day. We were a British colony until 1965.

There will be a parade this evening, called the National Day Parade (NDP). It is one of the major events of the year, with several thousand spectators & displays from the military as well as government & private groups, & dance performances by schoolchildren. The president, prime minister & all members of parliament will be present.

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Part of the celebrations includes a military flypast of F16s from our Air Force, & also a spectacular fireworks display. Because of this, the organisers are often quite anxious about the weather.

The parade organisers come from a different unit of the army every year. This year it is the Guards unit. My office gets different amounts of stress depending on who the organiser is. Some are not too concerned about the weather, & are content to have us fax them a forecast a week or so before. Others are very concerned, & require regular forecasts & updates weeks before the event; they also want a forecaster to be on site at the Parade grounds so that they can grill you in person.

Besides the actual day on 9 Aug, a preview of the Parade is also given to schoolchildren (called the National Education Show, or N.E. Show) & to the public (called the Preview). This year's NE Show & Preview already took place several weeks ago.

I was on duty on-site a couple of years ago, during the NE Show. I was on my toes, because several thousand schoolchildren were going to be watching, & if they caught pneumonia by sitting in the rain I would have felt responsible. Fortunately the weather wasn't bad that day, & the showers cleared up before the parade started. The organisers that year were from the Armour unit, & in my opinion they were rather paranoid about the weather. In particular, I had this chubby officer, Major L, fussing about the forecast all the time. He had worked out a very complicated flowchart to present to his boss incorporating the weather (i.e. if it rains, then one action is carried out, if fair weather, then carry on etc etc.) He had even arranged for a Fokker to fly around at intervals, collecting wind data.

Although the parade didn't start till 6pm, I had to be on-site by 10am because there were a lot of preparations being carried out. Major L was all in a dither when echoes started popping up on the radar in the afternoon. By 4pm I could see that they were dissipating, though, so I gave him the all-clear. His eyes were bulging, because he could still see the echoes on the radar. "But how do you KNOW?" Later he kept calling the office to find out how the forecasts were done. My boss joked that he had taught Major L so much about forecasting that should he decide to leave the army, he could always come & work for us.

I found it interesting being in the control room, anyway, & seeing how things were being done. The colonel who was in charge of everything was quite a nice chap; after I'd explained the radar animation to him, he gave a slow, pleased smile & said, "I learned something new today." Another officer was checking on the schoolchildren. "How many have arrived? Have any gotten lost so far?" "No, but there's a big queue at the toilets." At the end there was a mix-up in the no of schoolbuses arriving to pick the children up, & the officer was very angry; he said he couldn't have a few hundred children stranded there.

I had fun chatting to the doctors there, too. They kept surveying the performers out on the field with a pair of binoculars to see if anyone had fainted in the heat. One was half Japanese & had studied as a child in Japan; he knew a lot more about the weather than most Singaporeans do. I enjoyed talking to one of the Warrant Officers, Gordon, who was attending the same religious instruction class as D at that time. But the best part of the parade was the fireworks - not the fireworks themselves, but the reaction of the schoolchildren to them. Imagine several thousand little children crying out "Ooooh!!!" in amazement at each burst of colour; it was really funny & moving. B)

Well, it's 10.30am and D is on duty at the Parade grounds now. Our latest radar plot shows a little thunderstorm nearby.

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It should clear up soon and the weather this evening looks like it will be OK. :doh:

Happy Birthday, Singapore.

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