La Plata County contractor breaks ground on weather radar tower – Durango Herald

La Plata County contractor breaks ground on weather radar tower – Durango Herald

The new system is expected online this year

James Romines, senior radar systems engineer for Baron Weather, says the company began work on the La Plata County radar system at the Durango-La Plata County Airport on Monday. (Courtesy of La Plata County)

James Romines had some trouble figuring out whether this weekend's storms would affect his ability to pour concrete.

La Plata County's weather forecasts are notoriously iffy, as there is no weather radar in the area.

But this will change soon. The concrete that needs to be poured will be the foundation for the weather radar tower located at the Durango-La Plata County Airport.

“I was looking at the forecast and stuff (trying to figure out) where it's going to snow, and there's not a lot of snow there,” said Romines, a senior radar systems engineer at Baron Weather.

La Plata County has approved a contract with Barron to purchase and install a weather radar system in December 2022.

The company began work on Monday and began excavation work. Romaine hopes to pour the foundation next Tuesday or Wednesday. At that point, he said, the company must wait for approval of a permit from the Federal Communications Commission to build the tower.

Although construction is ready to begin, it could take several months before a permit is approved, Romines warned. He hopes to complete the project sometime this spring or summer.

The area is currently in the dark for meteorologists, who rely on data from the nearest radar system in Grand Junction. Due to the straight path of radar frequencies, the curvature of the Earth becomes an obstacle. Radar cannot see weather systems moving below about 28,000 feet, which includes most snow storms.

Baron Weather will install a 90-foot tower at the Durango-La Plata County Airport on top of which the new radar system purchased by the county will be placed. (Courtesy of Baron Weather)

The new radar will have an approximate accuracy range of 200 to 250 kilometers, John Tarleton, vice president of integrated weather systems at Baron Weather, said in an interview when the contract was first approved.

La Plata County Commissioners approved a contract with Barron to cover expenses of $2,508,152.62, of which $1.7 million is covered by a grant from the Colorado Department of Local Affairs.

Although the project may not be completed, the county will spend the grant funding by the March 15 deadline.

“Obviously we are very pleased to begin physical work on site,” county spokesman Ted Hultin said. “We certainly thank Barron for pushing forward through many hurdles and it appears we are on track to have an operational weather radar in 2024.”

rschafir@durangoherald.com

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