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HAITI NEEDS METEOROLOGICAL SERVICES AS RAINS/HURRICANES APPROACH
Geneva, 9 February 2010 (WMO) – The World Meteorological Organization stresses the pressing need for operational meteorological services in Haiti to prevent further disasters. The rainy season with flood risk is due early April and the hurricane season begins early June. In order to prevent potential disasters related to the natural hazards, which the country is prone to the capacity of Haiti to produce and disseminate weather information and warnings needs to be developed without delay. Weather forecasts and early warnings from the Haiti National Meteorological Center are essential for national authorities, humanitarian and development agencies and the people for emergency contingency planning and recovery.
WMO Members have been providing weather information for Haiti since domestic meteorological facilities were rendered unusable by the earthquake. WMO with several of its member States and its Regional Office for North America, Central America and the Caribbean, are coordinating the flow of meteorological information to Haiti to ensure maximum efficiency and access by all. For instance, a number of countries in the region including the United States, Canada and the Dominican Republic are providing reports and forecasts essential for aviation safety and humanitarian operations. WMO is now working to ensure that the Meteorological Service of Haiti is equipped with basic capacities and expertise for translation and dissemination of this information for risk managers, humanitarian assistance entities and other decision-makers and the public in Haiti during the upcoming rainy and hurricane seasons.
The restoration of basic operational meteorological services within the next six to twelve months is a key objective in the UN Revised Flash Appeal and various bilateral supports. The estimated cost amounts to US$ one million and includes basic capacities such as an operational office space (the building was significantly damaged during the earthquake), computers and printer, communication systems, restoration of automated weather stations, back up generators, and hands-on training of the meteorological staff.
The Director of the Haiti National Meteorological Center (NMC), Mr Ronald Semelfort, called for “an office or a shelter where the NMC could operate safely under all kinds of meteorological conditions as the most immediate need... This is especially important as the hurricane season approaches”. He explained to WMO that the Office located in Port-au-Prince, “is severely cracked and is no longer a safe place to work”. The NMC is therefore currently working directly on the airport tarmac, and has a small temporary office within the Civil Aviation Bureau. Despite the less than optimal conditions, NMC is doing it’s best to provide services on a 24/7 basis. Since automated weather stations are non-functional NMC staff are collecting weather data observations manually at the two airports in Haiti to refine the results obtained by the meteorological models available on the Internet and from other Meteorological Services through the WMO coordinated network. “
In the medium to long-term, WMO is coordinating with government officials, technical agencies and development partners to reconstruct meteorological and hydrological capacities to support disaster risk reduction and multi-hazard early warning systems. This is part of the Post Disaster Needs Assessment (PDNA) and reconstruction planning under the leadership of the United Nations and the World Bank, and with the Inter-American Development Bank and other partners.
On 29-30 November, just one and a half month before the earthquake, the Secretary-General of WMO, Michel Jarraud, visited Haiti to assess investment needs for disaster risk reduction and early warning capabilities.
Over 90% of disasters in the country are linked to frequently occurring meteorological, hydrological and climate-related hazards: tropical cyclones and related storm surges, rivers and flash floods, drought, thunderstorms or lightning, landslides or mudslides, which have been further exacerbated by massive deforestation and environmental changes. Haiti annually experiences two rainy seasons, from April to June and from October to November, as well as a hurricane season from early June until the end of November. It suffered significant losses in 2008 from four hurricanes, Fay, Gustav, Hanna, and Ike. In 2004 tropical storm Jeanne’s heavy rains caused massive flooding and landslides; 1998 experienced Hurricane George; 1994, Hurricane Gordon and 1963, Hurricane Flora.
Special sessions to address the needs of Haiti will take place at upcoming WMO meetings in the region: including the Hurricane Committee (Bermuda, 8-10 March), and The Multi-Hazard Early Warning Systems Workshop for Central America and the Caribbean (Costa Rica, 22-25 March; see: www.wmo.int/pages/prog/drr/events/MHEWSCostaRica/index_en.html.).
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