NOAA06-R243
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Ron Trumbla
5/12/06
NOAA News Releases 2006
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NOAA’S NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE DECLARES
MAYAGÜEZ AS PUERTO RICO’S FIRST TSUNAMIREADY COMMUNITY

Officials from NOAA’s National Weather Service have recognized Mayagüez as the first TsunamiReady community in the commonwealth of Puerto Rico and the Caribbean. The fifth largest city on the island, Mayagüez now joins 28 other TsunamiReady communities in seven states.

“With our expanding tsunami observation and communications network, our forecasters already have the capability to monitor conditions and warn for tsunamis in the Caribbean and along the nation’s East and Gulf coasts,” said Brig. Gen. David L. Johnson, U.S. Air Force (Ret.), director of the National Weather Service. “We have also completed deployment of five Deep-ocean Assessment and Reporting of Tsunami DART buoy stations to help protect coastal populations in the region.”

The DART system is designed to provide real-time tsunami detection as waves travel across the open ocean. The new stations are equipped with advanced two-way satellite communications that allows forecasters to receive and retrieve critical data. When the entire system of 39 buoy stations is complete in 2008 – seven of them will be deployed in the Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico.

Located on the island’s west coast, Mayagüez has a population of 105,000, nearly a third of whom live and work in areas considered vulnerable to a tsunami. Of particular concern is the Puerto Rico Trench to the northwest. Highly susceptible to seismic activity, the Trench is a boundary between the Caribbean, North American and South American Plates. Since 1848, eight tsunamis have originated there causing more than 2,500 deaths. In 1918, a 7.5 magnitude earthquake in the Trench resulted in a tsunami that killed 116 people in Puerto Rico.

Working closely with the National Weather Service forecast office in San Juan, as well as the Puerto Rico seismic network, Mayagüez completed a rigorous set of warning and evacuation criteria to meet the guidelines for TsunamiReady recognition.

“While no community can be tsunami proof, Mayagüez now has the means to minimize the threat to the public,” said Bill Proenza, director of the National Weather Service southern region. “A tsunami may not strike for many generations, but then again, it could happen within a year. We now look forward to expanding the program to include other coastal communities and eventually the entire island.”

City officials were presented with a recognition letter and special TsunamiReady signs in a ceremony at the municipal building in Mayagüez. The recognition will be in effect for three years before the city undergoes a renewal process.

To be recognized as TsunamiReady, a community must:

  • Establish a 24-hour warning point and emergency operations center;
  • Develop multiple ways to receive tsunami warnings and alert the public;
  • Develop a formal tsunami hazard plan and conduct emergency exercises;
  • Promote public readiness through community education.

The National Weather Service is part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, an agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce. NOAA is dedicated to enhancing economic security and national safety through the prediction and research of weather and climate-related events and providing environmental stewardship of our nation’s coastal and marine resources. Through the emerging Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS), NOAA is working with its federal partners, more than 60 countries and the European Commission to develop a global network that is as integrated as the planet it observes, predicts and protects.

On the Web:

NOAA: http://www.noaa.gov

NOAA’s National Weather Service: http://nws.noaa.gov

NOAA’s TsunamiReady program: http://www.tsunamiready.noaa.gov