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School cancelled, panic, jokes, conspiracy theories – how Baku met a hurricane

Unusual precautions taken by the authorities have caused a stir in society

Weather forecasters have for several days warned Baku residents of a severe temperature drop, strong winds and ‘dangerous weather conditions’.

Baku itself is known as the windy city by locals, and the authorities usually do not take any safety measures.

This time, however, things were different, and this greatly agitated Bakuvians.

The ‘dangerous weather conditions’ were meant to make landfall today, and many have prepared for weather as severe as a hurricane.

Precautionary measures

The director of the National Hydrometeorology Department of the Ministry of Ecology and Natural Resources, Umaira Tagieva, said the following in a press statement:

“A strong wind speed of 30 metres per second and higher is expected on the Absheron Peninsula. This means that the branches of some dry trees may break, and so on. The population should be alert. Older people should not go outside unless necessary, and parents should not leave children on the street unattended.”

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The following measures were taken:

– School classes were canceled for two days and kindergartens closed;

– Oil workers were evacuated to the shore from maritime platforms;

– The Ministry of Labor and Social Protection instructed employers to protect those who work outdoors.

Bakuvians’ reactions

On the evening of 16 January, the ‘ impending hurricane’ was the most discussed topic in Baku. The reaction of citizens can be divided into two main categories:

– Streams of jokes on social media. Some suggested inventing a name for the hurricane (in the manner of American hurricanes). The options had largely a local flavor – for example, ancient female names.

– Preparations for the end of the world. Those who would cancel all their business on 17-18 January, stock up with food, remove all fragile items from balconies and get ready not to leave the house for two days.

In addition, the unusual behavior of the authorities gave rise to various conspiracy theories. Here are the two most popular ones:

– A strong wind might bring the swine flu virus from neighboring Georgia. The Ministry of Health had to officially deny this information.

– The public is being scared into changing their minds about going to the upcoming protest rally on 19 January. However, the weather promises to improve by Saturday.

On the morning of 17 January, the air temperature in Baku was about 4 degrees Celsius, and the wind speed was 15 metres per second with gusts up to 26 metres per second. On the Beaufort scale, this is classified as a strong wind. At the most, a strong storm. But certainly not a hurricane (33 metres per second).

Everyone was disappointed.

As of the afternoon of 17 January, there is no longer panic, but the wind continues to be the most popular topic for conversations and statuses on social media.

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