WU: Puerto Rico Radar Obliterated After It Takes a Direct Hit From Hurricane Maria

Written by on September 26, 2017 in Summer 2017, Tropical, United States of America with 0 Comments

Article from wunderground.com

Jonathan Belles
Published: September 25, 2017

Hurricane Maria took down one of Puerto Rico’s main weather monitoring radars as it roared across the island territory last week, and new photographs show how bad the damage is.

(COMPLETE HURRICANE MARIA COVERAGE: Hurricane Central)

The dome that covers the radar antenna, called a radome, was nowhere to be found. The spherical radome was expected to be able to sustain winds of more than 130 mph without damage.

Perhaps more shockingly, the 30-foot wide radar dish is also missing, likely blown off of its pedestal that is left behind. The pedestal remains intact as seen below in the close-up photo of the TJUA radar from the National Weather Service office in San Juan below.

Close detail shows that both the dome that conceals the radar and the radar dish are gone.

At the time of landfall in southeastern Puerto Rico, near the town of Yabucoa, winds were sustained at 155 mph or just 2 mph below Category 5 strength, according to the National Hurricane Center. Gusts were likely near 190 mph in the eyewall of Maria as it moved ashore.

The radar measured winds of roughly 145 mph before the radar stopped transmitting information to the National Weather Service.

The radar stands on ground that is roughly 2800 feet above sea level, which means winds at that height were likely 20 percent higher than what was seen at sea level. The radar itself also sits on a stand that is numerous stories high. It is possible, if not likely, that this radar fought against wind gusts of over 160 mph, even at its inland location.

It may be months before this radar is restored to service.

Track and intensity of Hurricane Maria.

(MORE: Hurricane Maria’s Trek Through the Atlantic)

You can see what the radar is supposed to look like below.

Puerto Rico does have a smaller radar that appears to have made it through Hurricane Maria without damage, but is currently non-operational.

Radar is only one tool that meteorologists use to forecast and warn against hazardous weather events. The GOES-16 satellite continues to provide 1-minute super high-resolution imagery for the island territory and nearby islands to monitor current weather conditions and forecast conditions that could impact Puerto Rico.

(MORE: Maria Was One of 10 Most Intense Atlantic Basin Hurricanes on Record)

Other Radars Destroyed By Weather

This certainly isn’t the first radar to be decapitated by the force of weather that it is supposed to be watching.

Super Typhoon Haiyan (locally known as Yolanda) made one of the world’s strongest landfalls near Guiuan in the Philippines in 2013. In the process of this landfall, the Guiuan radar was sheared off of its pedestal. It took more than two years to restore this radar and reinforce it. 

Destruction of the Guiuan radar in the Philippines during Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda). Left image is a simulation of what the radar should look like.
(Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration)

In December 2008, wind gusts up to 140 mph near Reno, Nevada on Dec. 19 punctured the dome of the NWS radar, there. Just six days later, a Christmas Day wind event with gusts up to 95 mph obliterated the rest of the radome and damaged the radar dish.

The radome in Reno, Nevada was punctured by extremely violent winds in 2008.
(NWS Reno, Nevada)

One of the EF5 tornadoes in the April 27th, 2011 super outbreak took out Huntsville, Alabama NBC affiliate WAFF-TV’s radar in a very similar manner to what we saw in Puerto Rico, with estimated winds of at least 200 mph.

That radar was replaced later in 2011.

The radome and radar from WAFF-TV was gone from its tower, and the nearby Bethel Church of Christ was destroyed on Apr. 27, 2011
(Photo used with permission: WAFF-TV)

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