Weather Blog

Did the radar see this coming?

Did the radar see <i>this</i> coming?

A few weeks ago, the Seattle weather radar suffered a malfunction and was out of service for a couple of days.

I suppose it could have been worse...

UW Research Meteorologist Mark Albright found this image above of what is (or, was) the Virginia Peak, Nevada Doppler radar, which is what is used for the general Reno area.

Being on a ridge top, it's accustomed to getting a lot of wind, but the storm on December 19th was too much. Anemometers recorded a gust of over 140 mph, which gave the radar a solid punch to its dome.

It suffered some damage, but was still holding strong... that is, until Christmas Day came along.  That's when a 95 mph gust did in the rest of the radar:



(And yes, to answer the headline question, it did show windy conditions right before it was smashed to bits.)

To bring this to a local tie, the Reno office said it had the use of five other regional radars to help out. But in the Northwest, we have some of the weakest radar coverage in the nation.  Both the Washington and Oregon coasts are mostly uncovered, thanks to coastal mountain ranges that block the signals from the interior radars that serve Seattle and Portland.

UW professor Cliff Mass has been a tireless crusader to get Congress to install a new radar along each state's coast. You can read more about his plight at this link.