Senior meteorologist Baqui relocates to Guam weather office
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — After serving more than a decade at the National Weather Service in Tafuna, senior meteorologist Carol Ma’afala Baqui has relocated to the Guam weather office, where she had previous worked for more than two years.
“Thank you American Samoa for the wonderful experience, God bless,” said Baqui, whom along with her family left Pago Pago on Thursday night for Guam.
Responding to Samoa News inquires prior to her departure, Baqui recalled that back in the late 1990's, a former mentor and leadership of the NOAA/National Weather Service Headquarter in Honolulu had primarily recommended the Weather Forecast Office in Guam for her internship.
Upon hearing this recommendation, the Weather Forecast Office in Honolulu quickly submitted a request that she work there, and she did. “At the time, I always wanted to remain close to home and family in American Samoa, and working in Hawai’i suits that goal,” she said.
A decade later, she worked at the Weather Forecast Office in Guam, “and my family and I really enjoyed everything about Guam and my work,” she said.
“I was surrounded by sharp scientists who have monitored and forecasted countless tropical cyclones across Micronesia, Guam and the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas,” she explained. “My job in Guam offers simply the best education and medical benefits for my children.”
Unfortunately, upon hearing the passing of “our dear colleague and friend Liufau Sonoma”, Mase Akapo — who was the Meteorologist In-Charge of the local weather office at the time — they contacted her in Guam for help with the local weather office, said Baqui.
“That phone call stirred me to vigilantly consider the immense sacrifice” made by Mase and his diligent staff, with only Mase and Salu Hans Malala on the forecasting team in 2009, she explained.
Asked why she wanted to relocate back to Guam, she said, “perhaps it's an admirable season to relocate back to Guam. Perhaps my calling is in Guam, and after learning about the job vacancy this past May, I applied. Nothing pleases me more than to balance my work, family and ministry. For that, Guam provides that excellent opportunity to meet my work goals and personal ambitions, especially my children's educational goals and purposes.”
Baqui said she started in 1996 at the local weather office as a college-intern through the interagency collaboration of Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE) and NOAA National Weather Service.
In 2003, a promotion for a meteorologist position became available here and she applied and was chosen.
Responding to Samoa News inquiries, Meteorologist In-Charge of the local weather office, Elinor Lutu-McMoore said that, “Although our office is saddened by Carol's lateral transfer” to the Weather Forecast Office (WFO) Guam, “we are very proud of her and fully support her decision.
Lutu-McMoore said WFO Guam “is a larger office with more opportunities and programs.”
It is also a big part of the Pacific Region National Weather Service family alongside the Honolulu Forecast Office, and “we will continue to work closely with Carol and the rest of the staff of WFO Guam, as we often do, and turn to them for assistance in our goal of improving our products and services,” she said.
“We pray and wish Carol and her family the best during their time in Guam and we are sincerely thankful for her contribution and many years of service in helping the Weather Service Office Pago Pago in its mission of saving lives and property of the residents and visitors of American Samoa, and we definitely look forward to more collaboration with Carol and to learn of other resources she may be able to share with us as we continue to evolve with the rest of the National Weather Service” she added.
Ask as to some of the challenges to the weather office in Pago Pago and what she hope will be changed for the local office, Baqui said, “This is an excellent question”
“From my personal experience, I saw at least three long-standing challenges that makes working here at the Weather Service extremely difficult from time to time,” she explained.
“These are the continuous shortage of staff, lack of operational weather-related equipment to improve quality of service - such as radar, hydrological and climate sensor driven equipment - , and limited availability of data between the ocean boundary and troposphere over the Samoan region.”
She notes that flash flooding, earthquakes, tsunamis, tropical cyclones and other natural disasters are keeping the staff actively engaged all year-round.
“As shift workers, our job is extremely demanding. It's a prayer in action to hope one day witness the Weather Service upgraded to a Forecast Office,” she said. “The seasoned staff at the Weather Service deserves an upgraded facility to utilize their college and work trainings, in hopes to provide an effective quality service to American Samoa and off-Island stakeholders.”
“I have no regret serving American Samoa, it's my birthplace and home. The Weather Service has come a long way, and I will never forget the values and ethics instilled in me by former colleagues here and afar.” Baqui said. “Keeping American Samoa informed was of paramount importance to ensure the protection of life and property.”
She also points out that the Weather Service continues to recruit students from all walks of life especially those with STEM-related interest, “but the choice is up to the individual.”
This was echoed by Lutu-McMoore, who “highly encourages our students who may be interested in becoming a meteorologist or related STEM fields, who have the passion to serve our community/ our people, to please visit our office so we may provide them with the information on the numerous opportunities that are available so they may work for the National Weather Service.”
With the shortage of staffing at the local office, there was an announcement that was posted on USAJOBS.GOV recently for 2 meteorologists (General Forecasters) — one of which is Baqui’s position.
Asked as to who will replace Baqui, Lutu-McMoore pointed out that with Baqui’s departure that leaves herself and general forecasters — Hans Malala and Theodora Meredith; one intern, Jane Taifane; three meteorological technicians — Laulusa Roy Laulusa, Tanielu Sonoma and Mrs. Imoasina Solomona-Tilo; and one Electronics Technician, Marcus Langkilde — to maintain the local weather office 24/7 weather watch operations.
According to Lutu-McMoore, she has not received any information yet about the applicants as they initially go through Human Resources for the US Department of Commerce.
“But I do look forward to welcoming our much needed meteorologists to help with our upcoming Hurricane season — Nov. 1 to Apr. 30 — to assist in providing warnings of any impending weather hazard or tsunami threat that may impact American Samoa, and to provide routine weather and climate information that also caters to our aviation and maritime communities,” she said.