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Congressional quartet hopes to alleviate radar gap over Rowan

There’s a giant hole over Rowan County.

Stretching from Kannapolis to Lexington, the hole is a gap in National Weather Service radar coverage.

Weather radar doesn’t typically draw political attention. This week, however, a quartet of politicians from North Carolina introduced a bill that would require a radar system in the Charlotte region. More specifically, the bill would require the National Weather Service to operate and maintain a Doppler radar system within 55 miles of every city with a population over 700,000.

The bill is officially named the Metropolitan Weather Hazards Protection Act of 2015 and would also require require the Secretary of Commerce, when evaluating potential sites, to take into account adjacent counties with limited radar coverage and have populations over 130,000.

Sens. Richard Burr, R-NC, and Thom Tillis, R-NC, introduced the bill in the U.S. Senate. Reps. Alma Adams, D-12, and Robert Pittenger, R-9, introduced the bill in the U.S. House.

Currently, the Charlotte area is covered by a radar system in Greer, S.C. — more than 90 miles from Charlotte. A news release from Burr’s office says no other city of Charlotte’s size has a radar system more than 58 miles away. A map provided in the news release shows a gap in coverage that’s mostly over Rowan County. The coverage gap does, however, appear to extend into Stanly County and areas surrounding Statesville.

“The National Weather Service should be treating all major metropolitan areas the same, but weather experts agree that the current Doppler technology locations in North Carolina are insufficient and do not give meteorologists the tools they need to detect and warn citizens of potentially dangerous weather,” Burr said in the news release.

In Charlotte, there’s limited radar coverage below 10,000 feet, according to the news release. One meteorologist in a letter to Burr estimated the vertical gap in coverage is more than two miles near Winston-Salem.

An announcement from Burr’s office about the bill included letters from three local TV meteorologists, who all mentioned a March 2012 tornado that struck Harrisburg, left 41 homes uninhabitable, six destroyed and several people injured. The tornado went undetected.

Burr also addressed the 2012 tornado in his announcement about the newly introduced bill.

“As we know from the tornado of 2012 that damaged up to 192 homes in the Charlotte area, this is a significant public safety problem,” he said.

Another one of the meteorologists recommends the a new radar system be placed near Salisbury, saying it would also help the Hickory area, which is in a similar situation.

The next closest gap in radar coverage appears to be in a rural, mountainous area north of Lynchburg, Va.

Contact reporter Josh Bergeron at 704-797-4246.

 

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