Cantwell Pushes for Doppler Radar Study, Plan to Address Gaps in Central Washington

Closing the Doppler gap would provide early warning of weather needed to effectively respond to wildfires, flooding

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell introduced and passed an amendment in the U.S. Senate Commerce Committee to study the Doppler radar gap in Central Washington and develop a plan to fill identified gaps.

Specifically, the amendment directs the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) National Weather Service to identify gaps in the NEXRAD Doppler Radar and develop a plan to fill the gaps within 30 days after the study concludes.

“Better weather forecasting means first responders can better protect human life and property before and during wildfires and other natural disasters. Unlike Western Washington, there is a large Doppler radar gap just east of the Cascades. Okanogan, Chelan, Douglas, Grant, Kittitas and Yakima Counties have areas lacking critical Doppler radar coverage. Closing this gap will provide the early warning needed to most effectively respond to wildfires, mudslides, flashfloods and other severe weather threats facing Washington state,” said Senator Cantwell.

According to the NOAA National Weather Service, there is currently a gap in Doppler radar coverage in Central Washington. Despite existing radars across Washington state, signals on the West side of the state are blocked by the Cascades, and signals on the East-side are too far away creating a hole in radar coverage that extends from the crest down to Okanagan, Wenatchee, Yakima, and Bend. Without Doppler radar, Central Washington must rely on outdated technology to predict extreme weather. By covering the Doppler radar gap, Central Washington will have access to early warning of weather needed to most effectively respond to wildfires, allowing for rapid updates as fires move and grow, as well as flash flooding and mudslides.

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 Doppler gap on the outer coast. 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. The Grays Harbor Doppler became operational as the first dual polarized Doppler radar in the Nation in 2011.