Jackson proposes bill to fix weather radar gap
Democratic Rep. Jeff Jackson, a freshman, is set to introduce legislation in Congress to fix a weather radar gap in the Charlotte, North Carolina, area, a problem that has existed for years.
The closest National Weather Service radar to Charlotte is located about 100 miles away in Greer, South Carolina.
Distance determines what radar can detect in and around Charlotte below a certain altitude. The restrictions have led to a gap in coverage.
“It is completely unacceptable that an area of this size would not be adequately protected by radar coverage,” said Jeff Crum, chief meteorologist at Spectrum News.
While South Carolina’s radar does a good job of picking up severe weather at high elevations, the weather doesn’t reach the ground where the radar gap is, which could lead to early tornado warnings.
This could cause people at home to be unaware of the warnings, Crum said.
“You run into a problem with a lot of false warnings, like the whole cry wolf syndrome. Sometimes when you hear there’s a tornado warning, you might not pay much attention to it if it doesn’t get verified,” Crum said.
When there is extreme weather in the lower elevations of the Charlotte area, radar doesn’t always pick it up. This can create a potentially life-threatening situation.
This gap has been around for years, but Congress has yet to pass legislation to fund a new radar.
“Once I was elected, a lot of meteorologists in my district called me and said, ‘Please work on this,’” said Jackson, who represents parts of the Charlotte area.
In the next few weeks, Jackson said he intends to submit a bill to Congress to close the radar gap. He said he is working to find a Republican co-sponsor and trying to figure out what kind of radar should be funded.
“It’s just a question of whether it will be Doppler or next generation,” Jackson said. “If it’s the next generation, that’s great, but it’s a wait.”
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which includes the National Weather Service, told Spectrum News it lowered the angles of nearby radars to improve coverage of the Charlotte area. NOAA said it is also “exploring the use of supplemental commercial weather radar data when available to assist our forecasters.”
Charlotte Douglas International Airport has an FAA-controlled terminal Doppler weather radar that NOAA said it has incorporated into operation in its forecast offices.
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