RALEIGH – As typical – but hard to predict – summer storms roll through North Carolina daily, the chances for a new National Weather Service radar installation to better cover the central and western portions of the state may be strengthening. It will take an act of Congress to do it, but weather forecasters say that a new radar station in the state would aid in the detection and warning for severe weather such as thunderstorms and tornadoes.
Eric Thomas, chief meteorologist for Charlotte TV station WBTV, thinks that a bill that will be introduced soon in Washington by Sen. Richard Burr (R-Winston-Salem) and Rep. Robert Pittenger (R-Charlotte) may lead to federal funding for a new another radar site to better cover the western part of the state.
Thomas wrote in a blog post that currently the region is overlapped by five Doppler sites, the closest to Charlotte being the Greenville/Spartanburg and Columbia sites in South Carolina. Winston-Salem has one of the greatest distances to surrounding sites, with Raleigh, Greenville/Spartanburg and Blacksburg, Va. being the closest.
Stephen Billy, Pittenger’s chief of staff, says that the issue is not an academic one, recalling a 2012 tornado in Charlotte when forecasters were able to give just a 10-minute warning to residents, and another tornado was predicted, but the wrong neighborhood alerted.
“Congressman Pittenger is working with Senator Burr on legislation to ensure that metro regions with a certain population have a radar site within a specified area to ensure adequate coverage for some of the most heavily populated areas in America,” Bill said.
The bill, which Billy said should be introduced in September, would mean that Charlotte and Columbus, Ohio will qualify for what Thomas calls a $15 million investment. Although some might point out that it cannot hurt the bill’s chances for passage in the House if Speaker John Boehner’s home state is to benefit, Billy says that neither his office nor Burr’s staff considered that in the drafting process. According to Thomas, the most likely location for a new radar site would be near the Salisbury or Statesville area.