By NICO SCAVELLA
Tribune Staff Reporter
ONE of the four Doppler radars purchased by the government to bolster the functionality of the Meterology Department will be fully installed and operational by the second week of April, Director of Meteorology Trevor Basden said yesterday.
The installation of the other three Doppler radars, set to be installed in Abaco, Long Island and Mayaguana, will be complete by November, 2018.
The existing Doppler radar, which was first purchased in 2005 and became the subject of contention following the passage of Hurricane Joaquin in 2015, will be refurbished and subsequently installed in Ragged Island, Mr Basden said. Refurbishing that radar will cost approximately $1.43m, a figure that is built into the near $20m price-tag for the acquisition of the four new radars from Finnish company Vaisala, he added.
The old radar has been “decommissioned” since March 1, according to Mr Basden, who confirmed that it was not in service during the passage of a tornado at the Lynden Pindling International Airport (LPIA) early on Tuesday morning which caused damage to a Bahamasair plane and several rental cars.
The radar was decommissioned due to the “health hazards” its radiation could have on persons conducting the installation of the new radar.
“Our radar would not have been working, but, however, we do have other means by which to observe the weather, like satellite imagery, and we’re also getting Doppler weather radar images from Miami and also Key West,” he said.
“So we do have tools in place. Again the whole purpose of us investing in a Doppler radar is because we can be very accurate.”
Mr Basden made his announcements during a press conference to provide an update on the installation process at the Weather Station at LPIA.
His statements came four months after Transport and Aviation Minister Glenys Hanna Martin and other government officials signed a contract valued at $19,136,110 for the acquisition of the four new radars from Vaisala.
The country’s only Doppler radar, which was first purchased in 2005, has been a subject of contention ever since the passage of Hurricane Joaquin, when it was alleged that it was inoperable during the height of the storm.
A year later, it was out of service for some 10 days, according to Transport and Aviation Minister Glenys Hanna Martin, after it “came off its gears” during the passage of Hurricane Matthew.
Yesterday, Mrs Hanna Martin said that with the purchase of the four radars, the government is hoping to establish a “network of coverage” that spans the entire archipelago.
“Each Doppler (radar) will connect to the other doppler, thereby providing continuous coverage as you go through the chain of islands,” she said. “It will provide the Bahamas with coverage and a degree of coverage that is unprecedented. The Met department is really going to a new level in the Bahamas. Unprecedented. This is a very important day for the Bahamas in terms of our capacity as a people, in terms of our ability to be able to predict, to protect, to forewarn, this has armed our people in a way that has never been seen and perhaps anticipated.”
Lester Atkinson, a Vaisala Radar Engineer, heralded the government’s purchase as a “very, very wise decision”. He explained that the four new Doppler radars are WRM200 radars that utilise C-Band technology, which, according to Vaisala’s website, has “distinct advantages” over the country’s lone S-band radar.
“It’s dual polarised, which means that it can actually do a better job with the particle identification than your old S-Band radar that was just a single polarised radar,” he said. “So this technology is the newest technology out.
“The reason you’re getting four radars scattered around the islands is that they can overlap each other and do what we call a composite, very normal thing to do. And in all honestly, one radar can see what’s (happening) at the other radar. That’s what you want to do. You want to have that overlap.”
When asked about the durability of the radars, Mr Atkinson said: “There are things that can wear out; this is a magnetron system that has a limited lifespan. But we designed this radar, the gear train, the drive motors; everything involved in it mechanically is extremely durable.”
Regarding the refurbishment of the existing radar, Mr Atkinson said officials will endeavour to make it “very identical” to the four new Doppler radars.
“The signal processor, the antenna control, the (Interactive Radar Information System) software, it will all be identical,” he said. “It will receive a new tower, new radome, we will use the existing transmitter and some existing components. So we will take the original parts of the radar and make it as modern and up to date as your new radar.”
The government first announced plans to strengthen the country’s weather tracking service in November, 2015.