(CMR) The Cayman Islands Government broke ground for a new, purpose-built facility for the Cayman Islands National Weather Service (CINWS) last week.
Premier and Minister for Sustainability & Climate Resiliency Hon. Wayne Panton said the new ‘Cayman Islands National Weather Service Operations and Research Centre’ is one of the ways the Cayman Islands Government is future-proofing to increase resiliency.
“Our Weather Service is the most advanced of the meteorological agencies in the United Kingdom Overseas Territories in the Caribbean. As the team has grown, so have the services they provide and their needs in terms of equipment and facilities,” Premier Panton said.
He further stated that the new headquarters will ensure the dedicated Weather Service staff have the working conditions and equipment they need to continue to provide timely, accurate forecasts, advisories, and warnings for the country.
“Importantly, the new building will include facilities for 24-hour operations which is essential for providing accurate meteorological observations that support safe air travel and during severe weather events. The facilities will also feature sustainability measures, including environmentally friendly building materials, energy and water efficient design elements, with opportunities to utilise renewable energy and rainwater harvesting,” the Premier added.
CINWS Director General John Tibbetts said having a purpose-built, solar-ready facility that can enable 24-hour staffing and services is essential to enhancing service delivery for all three Cayman Islands.
“Having a facility that is better designed for our observational processes and having all of our Weather Service staff under one roof is going to improve our efficiency, allow for better collection of data, and reduce response times for accurate weather forecasting,” he said.
“The new facility will also allow us to implement a 24-hour monitoring and forecasting program to support aviation, disaster response and other government agencies. We are very pleased that the Government is making the new Operations and Research Centre a priority,” Tibbetts added.
Additionally, the facility will allow a number of senior staff to better support significant regional roles, such as Chief Meteorologist Kerry Powery serving as the Chair of the Regional Association Infrastructure Committee, Director General John Tibbetts and Manager of Research and Media Services Shamal Clarke as members of the World Meteorological Organization Expert Task team dealing with Multi-Hazard Early Warning Systems, and focal points for a number of critical meteorological functions.
Minister for Tourism & Ports, Hon. Kenneth Bryan and Minister for Planning, Agriculture, Housing & Infrastructure, Hon. Johany Ebanks, also attended the groundbreaking ceremony with Premier Panton, Tibbetts, and representatives from the Ministry of Sustainability & Climate Resiliency, the Weather Service, and the Public Works Department.
The site for the new facilities on Lyndhurst Avenue provides easy access to key emergency and aviation services, ideal conditions for air balloon releases, and enough space to house essential monitoring and observation equipment.
“The site offers a clear view of the airport runway and the horizon from all four coordinates, which is important so we can provide the Cayman Islands Airports Authority with accurate meteorological observations that support safe air travel,” Tibbetts explained.
Currently, the site is home to the Weather Services’ first Automatic Weather Observation Station (AWOS), which records and transmits data – including wind direction, wind speed, temperature, humidity, air quality, and rainfall – in real-time to the CINWS team. This is the first in a planned series of AWOS across all three islands.
The contract with Build Cayman, the successful contractor, was signed in September 2023, and construction of the new headquarters is expected to be completed in 2024. The Public Works Department is managing the construction project.