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Wednesday, August 21, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Spokane

Storm-detection radar shutting down for upgrade

The radar at Spokane’s National Weather Service office will undergo a major upgrade starting Monday that will put the storm-detection system out of service through July 5.

“That’s our main tool for seeing the rain, thunderstorms), what’s effecting our communities,” said the agency’s warning coordination meteorologist, Andy Brown. “Without the radar we’re going to have to rely on satellite and lightning detection.”

Brown said using alternative methods for forecasting storms will be a challenge, so the weather service picked a dry time of year for the project. Wildfire detection won’t be affected, he said.

Workers will begin dismantling the radar Monday. A crane will arrive June 28 to lift off the radar dome and replace the 15,000-pound pedestal, the part of the system that rotates the antenna.

Replacing the pedestal is the third of four phases in the replacement of the aging radar’s components. It first went online in 1996 and was meant to last between 20 and 25 years.

“Out of all the phases, this is definitely the most critical,” Brown said.

The fourth phase – replacing equipment shelters at the base of the radar – will be finished by 2022 and complete the Service Life Extension Program for the NWS Spokane office. The extension program is a $150 million project funded by the weather service, Air Force and Federal Aviation Administration to replace components in all 160 weather service radars around the country and extend their service lives into the 2030s.

Brown said the main concern while the radar is down is detecting thunderstorms during Hoopfest weekend June 29-30.

“So, we’re working with emergency management in Spokane to make sure we have a plan if there are thunderstorms or showers forecasted for that day,” Brown said.

In recent years, there haven’t been any issues with rain or storms at Hoopfest beyond slick playing surfaces, said Chandra Fox, emergency management deputy director of Spokane County.

Not seeing coming storms as clearly “adds an extra layer of complexity” to the usual Hoopfest planning, Fox said.

In addition to ALERT Spokane, which is the county’s mass notification system, emergency management will have a text notification system available during Hoopfest to alert participants in high-risk situations.

To opt in, text “HOOPFEST” to 99411.

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