6.8 Effectively Issuing Warnings and Disseminating Information During Hurricane Maria when Observations, Radar and Communications Fails (Invited Presentation)

Tuesday, 9 January 2018: 3:00 PM
Ballroom D (ACC) (Austin, Texas)
Travis Washington, NOAA/NWS Weather Forecast Office, Carolina, PR; and E. Rodriguez, R. Garcia-Hiraldo, I. Colon-Pagan, and G. Lojero

Hurricane Maria made landfall in the archipelago of Puerto Rico as a catastrophic category 4
hurricane on the morning of September 20th, 2017. As a result, major hurricane force winds
impacted an extensive portion of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands causing major power
and communications problems. Both, the Automated Surface Observing Systems (ASOS) and
Automated Weather Observing System (AWOS) failed, and the San Juan Weather Surveillance
Radar 88 Doppler (88D) was destroyed by Maria’s powerful winds. Prior to the 88D being
destroyed, the office tracked the eye of Hurricane Maria using GOES-16 overlaid with 88D. After
destruction, the office relied entirely on GOES-6. This procedure was critical during the issuance
process of warnings as Hurricane Maria moved over Puerto Rico.

Once communications started to malfunction, the staff quickly shifted to their personal phones in
order to access the NWSChat, disseminate information and respond to public inquiries through
social media. When communications completely failed, the office turned to the only radio station
that was operating at the time. This radio station not only served as a source of outside
information, but also served as a communication tool during this event. Through a live radio
segment, the office was able to disseminate weather information, which consisted of warnings,
river and streams data, as well as the latest advisories on Hurricane Maria. In an effort to fulfill
NWS mission, the staff of the NWS San Juan innovated and used the limited resources on hand
to go above and beyond to serve the people of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

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