It’s mobile radar to the rescue, and not a moment too soon.
This is the story of how a moving research radar will be helping the Lake Charles, Louisiana, National Weather Service (NWS) outpost, whose radar was broken during Hurricane Laura.
The Lake Charles NWS office and radar are both located at the Lake Charles Regional Airport, which also took a significant hit during Laura.
The radar dome sits on top of an over 60-foot tower, and since wind speeds are often stronger the higher you go up, this likely led to its demise.
The problem is, the radar equipment is still not fixed, and another hurricane arrived Friday night in the the same area of Louisiana.
Normally, when one radar site goes out, other nearby NWS offices can step in since many radar sites overlap a little.
“We have multiple radars to use, including one in Houston, Fort Polk, and Slidell,” said Roger Erickson, Warning Coordination Meteorologist for the Lake Charles NWS Office.
But those neighboring radars don’t cover the entire area, so what do you do about the gaps left behind?
“For this hurricane, we will have a portable doppler radar as well,” Erickson added.
A mobile radar, that is primarily used for research has been deployed to Louisiana to help fill in those gaps, and also provide high resolution, low-level data as well.
“In this particular case, the Shared Mobile Atmospheric Research and Teaching (SMART) Radar is here to enhance the existing coverage and provide high resolution data where the eye and eyewall are expected to pass,” says Addison Alford, a graduate research assistant at the University of Oklahoma. “In past research deployments of the SMART Radars in hurricanes, we routinely transmit our data to a webpage that can assist the NOAA NWS in their critical mission to provide life-saving warnings to the public.”
Addison will personally be on that mobile radar truck assisting with those critical, life-saving operations.
“University of Oklahoma Professor, Dr. Mike Biggerstaff, is the director of the SMART Radar Program and is leading this particular mission. Mr. Gordon Carrie, a data scientist at the university, has helped deploy the SMART Radars for 11 land-falling hurricanes and is managing the real-time transmission of our data. Hurricane Delta will be my eighth land-falling hurricane with the SMART Radars.”
And they won’t just help with the landfall, they will work with NOAA to determine when to shut down the system.
“That will likely be when Hurricane Delta has moved inland into northern Louisiana, beyond our operational radar range,” Alford explains.
So what exactly