Cantwell Report Outlines Plan to Solve Washington Weather Radar Gap

Cantwell report demonstrates need for long-range radar to expand coverage more than 100 miles

Seattle, WA – Washingtonstate bears the brunt of some of the worst storms in America, yet has the worst radar coverage of any coastal state, according to a report released today by U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA). Cantwell joined representatives from the National Weather Service, the National Oceanic Atmospheric Association, and state and local officials for a community forum to release findings of the study on Washington state's weather vulnerabilities and possible solutions. The study found that a gap in coastal radar coverage makes it difficult for National Weather Service forecasters in Washington state to predict large, dangerous storms.  Additional radar coverage would improve public safety and reduce negative economic consequences from hazardous weather through improved real-time analysis and prediction, the report concluded.  


“The report we’re releasing today outlines just how vulnerable Washington state communities are because of a gap in Doppler radar coverage along the west coast,” said Senator Cantwell.  “The improved weather forecasting system recommended by the National Weather Service will be able to track and observe storms 100 miles off our shores and will also provide more accurate short-term forecasting.  This will improve real-time analysis and prediction of storm systems and give Washingtonians the opportunity to brace themselves for the impact of massive storms like the back to back storms of 2007 and 2008. Today, we’re one critical step closer to getting this radar for Washington state, and I will continue pushing until we have a weather radar system that provides accurate and full-scale information about storms that could severely impact Washington state.” 


For years, Cantwell, Chair of the Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries, and Coast Guard Subcommittee, has advocated for a better weather radar system in Washington state to provide communities with better information about severe weather and storms that could impact the local economy, businesses, homes, and residents’ safety.  Last year, she convened a listening session in Grays Harbor to hear from law enforcement and elected officials regarding the 2007 storms that caused untold millions of dollars in damage.    


"The coastal Doppler weather radar will be a welcome key element in observing Pacific weather systems as they approach the coast and move onshore,” said Dr. Brad Colman, Meteorologist in charge of the National Weather Service in Seattle.


In the fiscal year 2008 Omnibus bill, Cantwell secured funding for NOAA to study how best to address the weather radar gap in Washington state.   Earlier this month, President Barack Obama included $7 million for a Doppler coastal weather system in his fiscal year 2010 budget.  These funds still need to be appropriated, but inclusion in the budget is an important first step.   


Full report is attached.