CEDAR email: Arecibo Observatory status after the hurricane Maria

Astrid Maute maute at ucar.edu
Fri Oct 13 13:44:58 MDT 2017

Dear CEDAR and GEM colleagues,

As you are no doubt aware, Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico as a category 5
storm on September 20. The eye and 100+ mph winds affected virtually all of
the island. The Arecibo Observatory withstood the storm, and we are happy
to say that all the staff members and their families are safe and accounted
for. The staff has spent the past weeks performing cleanup activities as
well as inspecting physical structures and research equipment. We are
greatly relieved that the Observatory sustained less damage than feared to
its equipment and facilities.

The meteorological parameters recorded along the hurricane Maria by the
weather station on top of the platform show wind velocities above 40 mph
for more than 24 hours and maximum wind gusts of about 115mph just before
and after the eye passage. During the same time a dramatic change of the
barometric pressure was detected (29.8in in to 28.4 in), and the
accumulative rain during the storm was more than 35 inches.

As consequence, part of the radio telescope structure was damaged, but
damages were minor considering the magnitude of the storm. The 430 MHz line
feed antenna and the 46MHz transmit/receive system collapsed due to the
strong winds, along with parts of the waveguide and the catwalk (the bridge
that goes to the platform). Pieces falling from the platform caused damage
to the spherical reflector. About 30 of the panels (the main dish) were
broken and some of the heliax cables from the HF radar system were bent. In
contrast, the Gregorian Dome and integrated ISR system do not appear to
have been affected. Proper tests will be performed as soon as commercial
electrical power is reestablished.

Recovery activities started one day after the storm. Most of the staff was
back in action repairing damage, removing debris, testing equipment and
doing assessments of technical damage. After one week, we ran the first
lidar experiment and started to collect data continuously from the passive
radio and optical instruments. The radio telescope performed drift scans,
observing pulsars after the storm. We continue a strategy of continued
testing of equipment and capabilities as more resources become available.

Besides all of the hard work performed onsite, the Arecibo Observatory
staff is also taking an active role in the recovery efforts of Puerto Rico.
We have provided hundreds of people within the community with clean potable
water, and we have given support to FEMA officials and search and rescue
operations. Several Arecibo Observatory staff members who lost homes are
temporarily living on site.

We want to thank the entire Arecibo Observatory staff for their incredible
dedication and efforts in helping reestablish operational capabilities at
the facility. Its people are the soul of the Arecibo Observatory. The
Arecibo Observatory is committed to Puerto Rico and the community. We know
that together we will soon be on our feet and achieving great things.


Francisco Cordova, MSCE, PE

Director - Arecibo Observatory

National Astronomy and Ionosphere Center

SRI International

Phone: 787-878-2612 ext. 212 <(787)%20878-2612>
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