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Aug 20, 2001

Weather bureau staff works round the clock

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Since Friday, we in the media have been fed with a steady stream of data on the progress of Chantal. Much of that information comes from our hardworking weather professionals. This afternoon Jackie took a look behind the scenes.

Jacqueline Woods, Reporting

Handling storms is the responsibility of the people at the National Meteorological Centre, near the airport in Ladyville. During the threat of a storm, the staff is put on alert and works twenty-four hours a day on a shift system.

Justin Hulse, Deputy Chief Meteorologist

“There are two person for forecasting, one in senior forecasting and one duty forecaster at the desk. There’s a person specifically for doing observations in the skies and then they send this report to Miami, the regular weather network. There’s a person for doing upper air observations. This is observations sending a balloon in the sky and the balloon is strapped to determine the wind speed, and the temperatures and humidity are measured at that time.”"

The chief meteorologist is the person left in charge of operations at the weather bureau. Hulse says because each team member has a specific task, the working environment is better controlled.

Justin Hulse

“Well we have had a lot of practise. I’ve been here for about thirty years and there’s been a lot of practice. It gets kind of hectic and my responsibility is to manage the staff, co-ordinate everything, so that we can supply information to the public and to the chief meteorologist, who usually shuttles sometimes between here and NEMO.”

Although things were relatively quiet in the forecast room, the staff was being swamped with phone calls coming in from all over the country.

Justin Hulse

“A lot, there’s so much that sometimes each time you put down the telephone it rings. Mostly calls are from NEMO, the emergency office in San Pedro and some concerned citizens.”

Dennis Gonquez, Meteorologist

“It gets a little bit hectic when it comes near to this period, when there’s a threat from a storm, when you find that we have to issue the bulletins and advise the National Emergency Organisation. Then it becomes a little bit hectic.”

Jacqueline Woods

“Do you ever get overwhelmed by the number of phone calls you receive?”

Dennis Gonguez

“Yeah we do. Sometimes I’d be answering a call and completely forget about the other one that’s over there.”

The staff say they try to deal with the distractions and stress that comes when working in an emergency situation.

Raymond Crown, Electronic Technician

“Well the only thing you can do is take a break and try and get some rest.”

Justin Hulse

“We relieve that by talking to each other. And I think that…in my case I’m always worried about screwing up; that’s my worry.”

Dennis Gonguez

“I enjoy doing meteorology, so it doesn’t become a stressful situation to me. I just put my all into it, I tell people it’s like a part of me now.”

…And if you are wondering, yes, the MET staff has a hurricane plan in place for themselves and family members.

Justin Hulse

“Knowing a storm is coming, we do all this in advance. We prepare how many people are going to be at the building, how many members each family has and we even have how much food we’re going to buy for the people on duty.”

Hulse says this year the weather bureau is far better prepared to track storms than in previous years.

Justin Hulse

“Oh definitely. Technology has caught up with us and the nice things we have today are like our radar, our satellite equipment. Our communications is now via satellite, so there’s less breakdown in communication, and we have some of the most modern technology.”

One essential piece of technology that is back in operation and just in time is the radar equipment. Damaged in a fire, it was fixed earlier this year and is being used to track tropical storm Chantal and its rainfall activity over the country.

Raymond Crown

“Well what we have right here is a cursor that is going around which represents the movement of the dish for the radar. As the cursor goes around, it’s actually beginning to show you areas around the country where we’re having rainfall. If you notice up here to the north east, we’re having our maximum reflection of the beam from radar from the raindrops.”

The staff says while it has been busy over the past couple of days the activity has mainly been a test for them, as Chantal never did materialise into a hurricane. They believe the storm has better prepared them for when the hurricane season gets more active in September and October. Reporting for News 5, Jacqueline Woods.

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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