Bismarck – North Dakota is over 70-thousand square miles and the National Weather Service only has three radars to cover such a large area.
But, officials are hoping adjustments to one could save lives.
We all remember the horrible images out of Watford City last July, 28 injured and one life lost- a newborn baby.
The weather service said specific circumstances made detecting the Tornado Challenging…
“The Tornado formed very close to the ground, the circulation, and it was literally over in about four minutes, also the event occurred close to one o’clock in the morning, even if a warning had been issued, for a tornado, I’m not sure what folks would have been able to do in such a short period of time” Said John Paul Martin with the National Weather Service.
Radar holes are rare east of the Mississippi but still exists in the West.
Watford City, unfortunately, lies on the edge of the Bismarck Minot and Glasgow radar sweeps, meaning each radar can only detect weather 10,000 feet above ground level or more.
A recent report showed that lowering the radars sweep angle from 0.5 degrees above the horizon to 0.3 degrees would help but they still have challenges…
“We can’t go any lower than that because of the terrain west of the radar, the terrain increases as you go west of Minot, so the energy from the radar would come out and hit into the ground and we’d see nothing beyond that”. Said Martin.
The adjustment will help, but only slightly.. and, it still wouldn’t have detected the deadly tornado last year…
“The Tornado, our study has shown, formed so close to the ground, that lowering the radar would not have helped in that situation”. Said Martin
So is it ever possible to get a radar to fully cover western North Dakota?…
“A radar, somewhere along the Montana border would be the ultimate solution, that is not possible with the funding that we have”. Said Martin
Getting a new radar in the west would literally take an act of Congress to accomplish, meaning we’ll have to deal with what we have for the foreseeable future.