Weather service strives to restore radio broadcasts

The Cayman Islands National Weather Service is still attempting to repair the damage from a lightning strike last year that knocked its public radio broadcasts off the air.

Weather updates were available on 107.9 FM until September. The weather service hopes to restore service in the next few weeks.

John Tibbetts, director general of the National Weather Service, said the transmitter and the antenna were damaged in the strike and that it has taken some time to sort out the repairs.

“I think some of the initial confusion is that up until that point, it did not even belong to the National Weather Service,” Mr. Tibbetts said. “We were then told that it was ours and we need to fix it. We’ve since bought a transmitter for it and we’re in the process of buying an antenna.”

When the weather service made a public service announcement in October last year regarding the lighting strike that halted the broadcasting, it stated that it expected the repairs to take “at least a month.”

The weather service has been conducting tests in order to get the radio station back on the air, and the new transmitter has already been installed. At one point, the station was working in parts of Cayman, but the technicians realized they would need a new antenna to make it work full-time.

“The old transmitter was not heard very well in the East End and in North Side,” Mr. Tibbetts said. “We’ve roughly doubled the distance we can transmit, and we’re investigating putting one into the Sister Islands as well. There’s a number of things going on right now in regards to the weather radio.”

The cost for the new antenna – which could run to thousands of dollars – will come out of the National Weather Service’s budget.

Hurricane season began on June 1, and Mr. Tibbetts said the radio station bulletins are an integral part of keeping the local community informed about incoming storms.

“It’s very important,” he said. “We have a Facebook page and we have a website. We also have a connection with the Cayman Compass and all the radio stations out there. We can still get the message out, but the radio station has value for when you’re going out on a boat nearby.”

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