Press release from the Met Office


From Left to Right, L. Halley, Weever, A. Martis, B. Proenza, R. Molleda and R. Eugenio

On Tuesday June 9, 2009 a delegation consisting of the National Weather Service consisting of the Regional Director Mr. Bill Poenza, Mr. Rober Molleda, the Metrological Service of The Netherlands Antilles and Aruba, Acting Head St. Maarten Mr. R. Eugenio and Director Mr. A. Martis met with the Sector Economy and Tourism, Director Mr. Miguel de Weever and Policy Advisor Louis Halley at the office of the Juliana International Airport to discuss the further development of the Metrological Service on St. Maarten. The objective was to discus the transfer of meteorological services to St. Maarten.


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During the meeting an overview was given of the responsibilities of The Metrological Services of the Netherlands Antilles and Aruba (MDNAA). The group was informed that MDNAA is responsible for the collection of meteorological and climatology data, generation and dissemination of public weather forecasts and warnings. In addition, they provide information for aviation and marine.

Mr. Poenza, the Regional Director of the NWS also provided an overview of his responsibilities of the NWS. He indicated that they have a close working relationship with the MDNAA with Curacao and St. Maarten with the upper air soundings (assessment of the atmosphere). One of the other areas that is of great importance that was also discussed is other natural disasters i.e. earthquakes, volcanoes and tsunamis. Tsunamis became the focal point of discussion, as comparable to the Indian Ocean the Caribbean is also a seismic active area. The Tsunamis better known as "El Peligro Olivado" (the Forgotten Danger) is an imminent treat to the low lying coastal areas of the Caribbean islands. Because the coastal areas of the Caribbean islands are relatively flat, makes the threat for greater disaster more imminent.

Currently, work is being carried out to develop a Tsunami Warning Center (TWC) in Puerto Rico. On a National level the seismic station in St. Maarten also contributes to the regional seismic network. The warning issued by the TWC will be received via emails, SMS and the GTS at the Metrological offices and subsequently, a special bulletin will be disseminated by the Metrological office to the relative authorities.

Mr. Proenza during his visit got the opportunity to visit the Metrological Service of St. Maarten. He explained that he saw, there is room for expansion at the center to develop a full fledge Metrological Office. There were upper air soundings being done by the center which is important for the assessment of the atmosphere to provide weather forecasts. During a visit at the office on Monday evening, the new Automatic Weather Station (Sutron, a U.S. company) was shown. Using the existing telecommunication capabilities, meteorological information (data, text, radar image, aerodrome warnings) generated at the office of the MDNAA is sent in real time to the Airports, the Control Tower and Area Control. Furthermore in close collaboration with Airport Authorities a brand new upper air station was built next to the office in St. Maarten. As part of the Cooperative Meteorological Program, new equipment was installed recently. The information generated by the radiosonde and surface observations are used for the airport and also transmitted worldwide via the Meteorological Global Telecommunication System. In this connection, the International Satellite Communication System workstation is used, allowing the Met Office to receive and transmit meteorological information via a satellite connection.

Visit to the weather Radar.

The group visited the radar site on St. Peters Hill were the refurbished weather surveillance radar, with Doppler capabilities is being installed. It is expected that the radar will be soon operational, allowing the forecasters and the general public of St. Maarten, Saba, St. Eustatius and surrounding islands to have a real time view of shower activity via the web site of MDNAA. This information will be sent in real time to the National Hurricane Center in Miami as part of the cooperation between the NOAA/NWS and the MDNAA.

Meeting Lt. Governor.

A short meeting was held with the Lt. Governor, where a brief overview of the scope of responsibilities of the National Weather Service was provided. At that time Mr. Bill Poenza informed the Lt. Governor that the NWS is ready to assist St. Maarten in their quest to have a full fledge Meteorological Service as he sees the ultimate objective of this service is the not only the protection and economic well being of the persons but also of life.


Mr. Proenza an advocate for the development of a Tsunami Warning Center for the Caribbean also informed the Lt. Governor of the works being done to create the awareness in the Caribbean and the focal points where information can be obtained. He stated that Barbados would be the focal point for the English speaking islands and possibly Venezuela for the Spanish speaking islands and territories.

During the visit, Mr. Martis gave the Lt. Governor an update of the works being done on the Radar facility on St. Maarten. Mr. Martis Stated that with the near future a US based company will come to St. Maarten to place the dome around the radar and subsequently thereafter a US company will come to St. Maarten to install the software. It was indicated that by the middle of July 2009, the radar will be going through its first testing period.

Meeting EOC

A meeting was also held with Mr. Winston Salomon Chief Commander of Fire Department and Mr. Paul Martens, Section Head Disaster Management. The meeting was held to discuss a Tsunami preparedness program of which a presentation was given by Mr. Bill Proenza. Mr. Proenza gave a presentation about characteristics of a Tsunami, dates of the last Tsunamis in the Caribbean dating back to the 1800’s and the importance of being prepared. Mr. Poenza also gave an explanation of the impact of a hurricane relative to a Tsunami and also the response time in which information can be provided to the public.


Mr. Proenza indicated that unlike in the case of a hurricane where warning is given days in advance the warning for a Tsunami is relatively short, approximately of 15-25 minutes. Therefore, it is critical that information can be disseminated to the public in very short time in order to mobilize the public in the event of a Tsunami.

Mr. Martis stated that efforts are being made where discussions with the Mobile companies of St. Maarten to utilize mass dissemination of text messaging to inform the public. Public awareness/education still needs to be developed in order not to create panic situation.

In closing of this group meeting (June 8-11, 2009) Mr. de Weever, stated that the protection of life and property is the highest call we have. St. Maarten will continue the process of setting up a National Weather Service and that there will always be cooperation with other Metrological Services, especially within the Kingdom and the US.