Statement on Impact of Hurricane Maria on Arecibo Observatory

©NSF

Arecibo staff after the storm.

With winds of 155 miles per hour, Hurricane Maria devastated the island of Puerto Rico Sept. 20.

The eye of the storm passed over Arecibo Observatory, which is operated and managed for the National Science Foundation (NSF) by SRI International, Universities Space Research Association (USRA), and Universidad Metropolitana (UMET).

While Arecibo Observatory suffered some damage, initial indications are that the damage was less severe than might have been expected from a storm of the magnitude of Hurricane Maria. Operations at the Observatory are suspended until further notice. NSF Acting Assistant Director Jim Ulvestad issued the following statement to address continued concern.

NSF is deeply concerned about the impact of Hurricane Maria on the people of Puerto Rico, and our thoughts go out to Puerto Rico at this challenging time. The number one priority for NSF is the safety and recovery for Puerto Rico's population and any concerns regarding NSF activities are secondary to that top priority. While we know that there is some damage to Arecibo Observatory, we do not yet know the full extent of the damage. Inspections to assess the infrastructure are underway. Preliminary assessments describe minimal damage in comparison to many other parts of Puerto Rico. As a result of the relatively intact Arecibo Observatory infrastructure, the Observatory is currently being used as a search and rescue hub by FEMA. At this time, we cannot predict when research operations at Arecibo Observatory might resume, however test observations to evaluate performance have begun. After the damage assessments are completed, NSF will evaluate whether any adjustments need to be made to our ongoing environmental review process regarding future operations of Arecibo Observatory. We will provide further updates once we have more information.

Jim Ulvestad, NSF acting assistant director for Mathematical and Physical Sciences i
September 27, 2017

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