BAHAMAS – Radar fiasco
Forecasters: Hurricane warning did not come soon enough
NASSAU –– As senior officials of the Department of Meteorology were telling the public during the passage of Hurricane Joaquin earlier this month that their radar was working all during the storm, forecasters were among themselves expressing outrage that the radar had gone down, and residents were not warned about the storm as early as they should have been.
One forecaster said: “In my opinion, we were wrong for not issuing a hurricane warning for the south-east Bahamas earlier, and this is a story in itself.”
On October 2, the day that the department released a statement advising that the radar was working and was operable all during the passage of the storm, another forecaster wrote to his colleagues: “The damn radar is not working, period!
“. . . My God, we got to stop!”
Another employee in the Forecast Office responded: “I feel bad for those in the central Bahamas. [They] did not have a chance to evacuate.”
That employee claimed there was a three-hour delay between the time the National Hurricane Centre (NHC) in the United States called and when officials at the Met Department reacted to what was taking place with the angry weather system.
The employee told his colleagues that when the powers that be were unreachable at critical times forecasters needed to use their judgement “to call shots without approval”.
“We can save lives,” that person told colleagues.
One forecaster said he was “so distressed” that the Department of Meteorology had refused to warn the south-east Bahamas earlier.
“Now look what happened! My God! How are they going to explain this!”
Another forecaster wrote to his colleagues: “Truth be told, the storm was too close for comfort to begin with, and at least an alert should have been issued. Understand the winds from the centre of circulation be it of tropical storm or hurricane force in nature would have affected some of the islands.”
Another message from a forecaster claimed: “Because the National Hurricane Centre could not contact [an official] early enough, we were late in issuing our first warning.”
“So if NHC has to go through [an official] and can’t contact him, then the forecasters on duty have to make the call.”
Another message stated: “Yeah guys, major hurricane,
no hurricane forecasters meeting yet, no radar, no trans, poor leadership.”
Yet another message read: “Like I said, the Weather Channel said that little reports coming in from The Bahamas. We look bad, two islands with WX stations.
The hundreds of thousands spent on automatic stations. Down the drain.”
Another employee of the Forecast Office confirmed on Friday, October 2: “The radar was down. I did a complete reinstall of the software. I am sure there [were] no calibrations done once it was back up.
“So on top of the fact that it is not doing volume scans that would provide the best data, there is no way to tell if any data is accurate, but I think the photos above answer the question.”
One forecaster responded: “Yes, and the magnetron is weak and needs to be replaced.”
On October 2, as Joaquin lashed the southern and central Bahamas, forecasters exchanged computer images of the storm, purportedly showing no echos or showers on the radar. This points to a radar that is not operating properly.
Director of the Department of Meteorology, Trevor Basden, insisted at a Press conference after the storm that the department issued warnings in a timely manner.
These messages and several more exchanged among forecasters during and in the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Joaquin were revealed to The Nassau Guardian amid lingering concerns among some residents that they had no warning about the storm before it hit, or were not warned early enough.
The storm caused widespread devastation in certain islands in the south-east and central Bahamas, but no loss of life in those islands.
On October 7, Prime Minister Perry Christie told Parliament that the Department of Meteorology had worked steadfastly ahead of the powerful storm.
Christie also said that an American TV station had falsely reported that The Bahamas radar was not working. Christie also noted that the department had confirmed the radar was working at all times during the storm. However, information in the files at the Department of Meteorology contradict that statement.