NWS/Billings has installed a new base for its Doppler radar
BILLINGS – It’s been nearly 30 years since the National Weather Service has done this kind of maintenance on the Doppler radar here in Billings, and it’s something they’re doing to ensure we have more accurate weather forecasts for a long time to come.
“The pedestal is what we are replacing here today,” said John Wettenkamp, meteorologist in charge at the National Weather Service in Billings.
“It’s the part of the radar that controls the position of the radar, so it’s the most important component. What they’re going to do is they’re going to remove the dome here and replace our base with a refurbished one.”
It is no easy task as the dome itself weighs 6,000 pounds. What about the base? A whopping 11 tons! The whole process took less than 4 hours. So who lifted weights?
“We have a contract company involved in doing this work for the Weather Service Office, and then we have other technicians on site today helping with the process. The last time this was done was when the radar was installed in November of 1995.”
Nearly 30 years ago, a well-known Billings citizen remembers that day well.
“So they eventually started coming out with a new Doppler radar and rolling it out across the country,” said Bob McGuire, the former chief meteorologist for Q2 who has since retired.
“Billings was like in the third wave of this installation. That’s what happened in 1995. So they built a new one there just north of the airport. Once they built the Doppler radar and put the new base in, we could tell ‘what the wind was doing, we could Find out what rain does. “It even had the ability to estimate how much rain had fallen in a particular area, so it was just a really good leap in technology.”
The new base comes from Kunsan, a US Air Force base in South Korea. It has been refurbished for use in our area.
“This will keep the radar operational for at least another 20 years, and possibly longer than that, before the next major upgrade.”
September 25 is the expected date for the radar to be up and running again after reassembling everything including all the wires and joints, but if the performance tests go smoothly, it could be up and running soon. While we wait through this process, the National Weather Service would like to provide you with this gentle weather reminder.
“Be prepared for impactful weather events whether it’s during the winter months or during the summer months. Be prepared, be aware of the weather.”
And don’t be surprised at all.
(marks for translation) BILLINGS