Cantwell Applauds Installation of Doppler Radar Dome in Grays Harbor

Says ‘dome installation marks significant milestone in our effort to bring the best weather coverage to WA’

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) released the following statement regarding this morning’s installation of the dome on Washington’s first coastal Doppler radar tower in Grays Harbor County. The state-of-the-art Doppler radar is scheduled to be operational by September 2011.

“Today’s Doppler radar tower dome installation marks a significant milestone in our effort to bring the best weather coverage to Washington state,” said Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA). “No longer is this new radar just a dream or blueprint on paper, but a real structure that will soon help provide Washingtonians with some of the nation’s best weather forecasting technology. I am proud that after years of hard work, we can now see the Doppler radar towering above us, nearing its final stages of completion. Too often in the past, our weather radar coverage gap meant that Pacific Northwest communities didn’t have the timely information they needed to prepare for big storms.  This new technology will enable Washingtonians to better protect themselves and their property from bad weather.”

Senator Cantwell, former chair of the Senate Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries, and Coast Guard Subcommittee, has led the effort to improve weather forecasting in the Pacific Northwest. In 2007, she obtained funds to complete a study, released in May 2009, which demonstrated the gap in Washington state’s weather radar coverage. She secured full funding for this radar system through a $2 million down payment in the 2009 omnibus appropriations bill, and $7 million included in the 2010 Consolidated Appropriations Act.

Last June, Cantwell announced that Washington state would be receiving its first coastal Doppler radar a year earlier than scheduled thanks to NOAA obtaining an existing radar from the Air Force that could be modified to operate with the most sophisticated technology available. NOAA identified an Air Force NEXRAD radar at Keesler Air Force Base in Mississippi that is no longer be needed for military training. By updating an existing radar rather than purchasing a new system, Washington is getting radar coverage significantly faster and within budget. 

This radar will be one of the first in the nation using ‘dual polarization’ in civilian weather forecasting. The dual polarization technology provides an in-depth look at weather systems, scanning vertically as well as horizontally, enabling the National Weather Service to better predict the type, intensity, and duration of precipitation. Most Doppler radars in use today provide only a horizontal view of storms and precipitation. The National Weather Service plans to eventually upgrade most of its weather radars to this capability.