Deale, Maryland – Torrential rains poured down on El Salvador in early November, triggering massive flooding and landslides. The storms killed over two hundred residents of the Central American country, and left thousands homeless. The town of Verapaz saw some of the worst damage, after loosened mud and rocks from the Chinchontepec Volcano buried numerous homes and streets. The severity of the destruction prompted El Salvadoran President, Mauricio Funes, to declare a national emergency. Such disasters are all too common in El Salvador. Throughout the country’s history, it has reeled from hurricanes, earthquakes and flooding, including Hurricane Mitch and a devastating earthquake in 2001. The financial and personal losses from such disasters are incalculable, and present an ongoing challenge to this country.
Seeking a solution, El Salvador has partnered with IEDRO (International Environmental Data Rescue Organization). IEDRO, a nonprofit organization based in Deale, Maryland, specializes in data rescue and digitization. Executive Director, Dr. Rick Crouthamel, along with other staff members, visited the offices of the El Salvador National Meteorological Service (SNMS) soon after the storm. Thousands of historic hydrometeorological records have been taken in El Salvador over the last 100 years, and are currently stored in SNMS’s two warehouses. “The data contained within these warehouses is crucial to understanding and evaluating environmental changes,” says Dr. Crouthamel. “Right now everything is physically stored on paper at two locations. One natural disaster could wipe out all their records. Even the passage of time poses a serious threat.”
“With the assistance of the SNMS staff, digital photographs are being taken of each piece of historical weather data stored in two warehouses. Once captured and uploaded into the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Climatic Data Center (NCDC), data from this site will be used by computer forecast models to improve flood and mudslide warning capabilities in El Salvador, thus saving hundreds of lives.”
By Andrea Crisp