New radar in southeast Arkansas addresses gap in severe weather coverage

New radar in southeast Arkansas addresses gap in severe weather coverage

DERMOT, Arkansas – Extreme weather can strike anywhere, but not all areas are best able to confront the threat.

Parts of the Arkansas Delta are more than 100 miles away from the nearest radar, creating gaps in coverage, but that's about to change.

Currently, when someone receives a tornado or severe thunderstorm warning, it's thanks in part to the Next Generation Weather Radar (NEXRAD) network, but over the past two years, a private company has been deploying radars in areas not well served by currents. The radar network of the National Meteorological Authority.

Atop the Dermott Water Tower overlooking the Arkansas Delta, there's a new eye in the sky. Climavision radar with mission.

“We fill the low levels between the NEXRAD radars,” explained Chris Judd, CEO and founder of Climavision.

Radars send beams at a slight upward angle to collect data, so the farther away you are from them, the less atmospheric data there is. Dermott is located in what Good said is the “perfect location” between the radars in North Little Rock, Memphis, Jackson and Shreveport.

“These gaps have been around for decades, but due to increasingly erratic weather and climate change, it is becoming more and more important to discover lower-level information,” Judd said.

The private company boasts that its radars have 10 times the accuracy of NEXRAD within a 60-mile radius.

To make a profit, they signed a research agreement with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the National Weather Service for access. It also sells radar data and weather forecast models to commercial companies in industries such as agriculture, insurance and aviation.

Local partners, such as the Chicot County Office of Emergency Management, can freely use the data and help alert citizens. Tim Chennault, director of the Chicot County Office of Emergency Management, said he is very excited about how more resources will help protect citizens.

“Climavision reached out to us and told us what they could offer, and immediately it was something we were interested in,” Chennault said.

County emergency management agencies examined every water tower in the county to find a suitable location, and Dermott fit the needs not only because of the location but because of a recent upgrade to the reservoir that allowed easier access to structural records.

“Climavision worked very quickly,” Chennault said. “I think we signed the contract in September, and it's November, and we've installed the radar.”

Dermott Fire Chief Damond Coffey said he expects the training to be completed by the end of the year, which will allow them to access radar data.

Climavision plans to fill every gap they see in the radar system by installing 200 radars across America. That includes another radar that will be in southwest Arkansas and one or two more in north Arkansas.

Climavision claims last summer that one of its radars in Texas detected a tornado a full 21 minutes earlier than the NEXRAD system.

“It's not to say the current network isn't strong, but completing those lower levels and having complementary service to enhance the existing network has paid off,” Judd said.

Chennault said he also noticed a one- to two-minute delay between NEXRAD radar data and the weather he sees in the city.

“(With this radar) we can issue a warning much faster. Instead of waiting two minutes to see something happen, we can see it in real time.”

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