By KHRISNA VIRGIL
Tribune Staff Reporter
TRANSPORT and Aviation Minister Glenys Hanna Martin said yesterday she was disappointed that the Department of Meteorology has been drawn into public disrepute after forecasters did an exemplary job as Hurricane Joaquin made its way to the central and southern Bahamas.
Mrs Hanna Martin said forecasters should be praised for breaking ranks from international weather experts to insist that the Miami Hurricane Centre issued warnings for the southern islands, despite US meteorologists insisting that Hurricane Joaquin was not headed for the country.
She also defended Prime Minister Perry Christie after a local daily questioned if he “misled” Parliament and the Bahamian people about the condition of the department’s radar during the hurricane’s passage.
In the House of Assembly, Mrs Hanna Martin maintained that the Doppler radar was operating during the storm. A series of articles about the claims were published in The Nassau Guardian on Monday.
That same day Mrs Hanna Martin and senior officials from the Department of Meteorology denied the reports, however, the next day forecaster Wayne Neely maintained the radar was down during parts of the storm.
However, the minister has said the issue experienced with the radar was simply a matter of rebooting the monitor which projects the images from the radar. She added that the radar is not housed at the same facility where forecasters are stationed.
Mr Neely has remained adamant that he would not have claimed that the radar was out of service if it was just a simple reboot issue.
Mrs Hanna Martin, who has the meteorology department in her portfolio, castigated The Nassau Guardian which this week reported that the department’s logbook entries and its checklist proved that the radar was down on October 2.
However, the Englerston MP said the logbook and the checklist information did not agree.
She said: “However, in reliance of this log entry from this forecaster and with no corroboration from the official internal record the managing editor (of The Nassau Guardian) laid her foundation through the journalistic media to accuse the prime minister of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas of misleading Parliament.
“The truth is that the consultant engineer visited the department before the log book notation. The radar was operational.
“The only notation of the radar not being operational was on September 28, when the on-duty forecaster noted that it was not operating. It is important to note that when the radar is mentioned on this checklist it refers to the computer monitor that receives the radar. The radar is in a completely different location from where the forecasters are posted.
“When the forecaster was queried on this particular notation, I am advised that the on-duty forecaster reported that the monitor display was showing ground clutter which I am advised is something caused by interference from other Doppler radars in the area.
“I am advised that no action was taken and by the following shift, the radar is noted as operational. It was in this context that the department issued a statement that the radar was operational during the storm and that assertions to the contrary were not true.”
Mrs Hanna Martin’s statement triggered a response from independent MP Dr Andre Rollins who questioned whether the minister could emphatically deny that the radar was not working, saying this would allay public concerns that the government was attempting a “cover-up.”
However, she responded that she had explained the issue at length, saying it was unfair that Dr Rollins was attempting to cast aspersions through “propaganda.”
On Monday, Mrs Hanna Martin held a press conference to refute allegations that the radar was non-operational during parts of the hurricane.
She said the claims were “erroneous”.
She maintained that the Doppler radar was operating throughout the storm, despite reported notations in the Meteorology Department’s log book on October 2 which read: “Major storm Joaquin is over the Bahamas and the Doppler radar is not working. The Met lab is not working, no hurricane supplies, no bus, when will we get it right in the Bahamas?”
The radar provides details on rainfall intensity, thunderstorms, and tornadic activity, including waterspouts effectively within a 150-mile range, Mrs Hanna Martin has said. Therefore, she said on Monday, the radar is best used by officials as a supplemental tool to satellite imagery, the lightning detection network and computer modelling from a variety of official international sources.