Central Virginia’s local doppler radar to go offline for up to two weeks starting Wednesday
A major refurbishment and upgrade to the radar is necessary to extend its life
RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - The National Weather Service’s (NWS) Wakefield radar site is set to go offline for almost two weeks starting Wednesday May 31.
The radar needs to be out of service while “technicians refurbish and replace the pedestal, one of the most critical components of the radar” according to a statement from Jeff Orrock, the meteorologist in charge at the NWS office in Wakefield, Virginia. The pedestal is “necessary for rotation and positioning of the radar to view data in all directions”.
The WSR-88D radar and pedestal were designed to last 25 years, and has already exceeded its expected lifespan, according to the NWS. The major upgrade being done will extend its life for an additional 20 years or more. The pedestal and components are extremely heavy, and the radome (radar dome) will be lifted with a crane to allow access to the pedestal for refurbishment, and replaced when work is completed. You can view a time-lapse of what the work will look like at this link.
Data from doppler radar is used to detect rain, snow, hail, and tornadoes. It is one of the most important tools available in modern day weather forecasting.
In the 10 to 14 days while the Wakefield radar is down, the NWS and NBC12 will use neighboring radar sites in Sterling and Roanoke, Virginia to keep an eye on weather around central Virginia, along with Raleigh’s radar for southern Virginia. Those radar sites will still allow meteorologists to monitor weather conditions.
However, while the Wakefield radar is offline it will be harder to “see” the lowest part of the atmosphere. Radar beams cannot follow the curvature of the earth. For that reason, radar sites farther away can only view what’s happening higher up in the atmosphere.
$135 million was invested by the NWS, United States Air Force, and the FAA in an eight year program to extend the life of NEXRAD/WSR-88D radars across the United States, including the one in Wakefield. The program will be completed this year.
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