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NOAA DELIVERS LIFE-SAVING DISASTER-PREPAREDNESS INFRASTRUCTURE
AND SYSTEMS TO CENTRAL AMERICA
Ceremony in Nicaragua Marks Final Phase of $16M NOAA Reconstruction Effort

NOAA satellite image of Hurricane Mitch on October 26, 1998.August 17, 2001 — Representatives from the United States and Nicaragua are marking the final phase of NOAA's $16 million project at a ceremony in Managua, Nicaragua, on August 22. A team of weather, hydrology and ocean experts from NOAA are nearing completion of a $16 million disaster recovery program in five Central American countries devastated in 1998 by Hurricane Mitch, the deadliest Atlantic hurricane in more than two centuries. (Click NOAA satellite image for larger view of Hurricane Mitch on October 26, 1998.)

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"NOAA is committed to working with our international partners to safeguard lives, property and sensitive ecological resources," said Scott B. Gudes, acting administrator for NOAA. "This project marks a critical step to improving weather forecasting and disaster-preparedness in Central America and creating an international standard for information sharing and cooperation."

The NOAA reconstruction project is part of an overall $17 million Department of Commerce effort to address problem areas identified as critical to mitigating against the effects of future natural disasters in Central America and the Caribbean. The DOC plan called for NOAA, the National Institute for Standards and Technology and the International Trade Administration to address five areas: (1) Base infrastructure; (2) Forecast and Early Warning Systems; (3) Disaster Preparedness and Response; (4) Sustainable, Resilient Coastal Communities; and (5) Economic Revitalization.

NOAA's efforts focused on two key areas; early warning and preparedness, and coastal assistance:

EARLY WARNING & PREPAREDNESS
Recognizing Central America had limited severe weather warning and forecast services, NOAA helped create the infrastructure necessary to improve forecasting and early storm warnings through disaster preparedness and response. Key elements include:

  • Replaced damaged and expanded automatic meteorological and hydrological stations.
  • Reestablished upper air station in Honduras critical for hurricane forecasting.
  • Provided automated precipitation gauges for real-time data.
  • Improved capabilities to receive and interpret satellite imagery for the region.
  • Established a regional, seasonal climate prediction system.
  • Provided a satellite ground station that brings high resolution digital imagery from NOAA's Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellites (GOES).
  • In cooperation with U.S. Geological Survey rebuilt tools to measure water levels, tides and geodetic positioning networks.
  • NOAA and USGS provided technology for state-of-the-art river and flood forecast systems.

Retired General Jack Kelly, NOAA's National Weather Service director said, "While we can't stop the catastrophic floods from hurricanes, we can do something to help local officials warn residents. Furthermore, all Americans will be better protected because the new data from our international partners will improve our hurricane forecasts." Weather data from Central America provides critical insight into where a hurricane might go and how strong it will be.

COASTAL ASSISTANCE
NOAA also advised on regional watershed management and assisted in building more sustainable and resilient coastal communities. NOAA's environmental scientists are improving coastal management in the region to lessen the impacts of future weather disasters and improve response capabilities. This includes:

  • Improved capabilities along coasts to cope with impacts of hurricanes.
  • Installed tide gauge networks.
  • Rebuilding aquaculture shrimp industry and providing more information on water circulation and contaminant levels in the Gulf of Fonseca—an important bay on the Pacific coast.

"A degraded environment threatens local economic prosperity and the well being of coastal residents," said Margaret Davidson, acting director of NOAA's National Ocean Service. "The coastal area of the Gulf of Fonseca is a vital economic resource to the region. Its estuaries help support the community and small-scale commercial fishing, shrimp aquaculture and salt production. We are providing information to improve coastal management and maintain economic vitality."

NOAA's reconstruction projects are expected to be completed by December 2001 and are part of a $621 million hurricane reconstruction project funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development.

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.

Relevant Web Sites
Mitch: The Deadliest Atlantic Hurricane Since 1780

NOAA's Hurricane Mitch Report


Hurricane Mitch Reconstruction Initiative in Central America and the Dominican Republic

NOAA's Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellites

NOAA Satellite Data Acquisition System for Central America

Real-time Satellite Rainfall and Fire Products for Central America

NOAA Satellite Images of Hurricane Mitch:
Hurricane Mitch: October 26, 1998

Hurricane Mitch (colorized): October 26, 1998

Hurricane Mitch (global view): October 26, 1998


Hurricane Mitch: October 29, 1998

NOAA's National Environmental Satellite, Data and Information Service

Media Contact:
Patricia Viets, NOAA Satellite Operations, (301) 457-5005