Thanks to the tire­less efforts of our two U.S. Sen­a­tors — par­tic­u­lar­ly our junior sen­a­tor, Maria Cantwell — the Pacif­ic North­west final­ly has a state-of-the-art Doppler radar sta­tion locat­ed on the coast, capa­ble of assist­ing mete­o­rol­o­gists in prepar­ing more accu­rate and use­ful fore­casts for our region.

The radar sta­tion, which has been under­go­ing con­struc­tion since mid-spring, was acti­vat­ed for the first time two weeks ago on August 8th. Because it is in test­ing mode and will con­tin­ue to be until the end of Sep­tem­ber, fore­cast­ers do not have con­tin­u­ous access to data from the sys­tem. But when it is on, it sends infor­ma­tion to Nation­al Weath­er Ser­vice per­son­nel in Seat­tle and Portland.

Today, it pro­duced some nifty images show­ing that a strong front is mov­ing in. Here is an image record­ed not long before 9:30 AM, which clear­ly depicts heavy pre­cip­i­ta­tion occur­ring just offshore:

Rangerings from Langley Hill coastal radar
A demon­stra­tion of the capa­bil­i­ties of the Pacif­ic North­west­’s new coastal radar (Image cour­tesy of Kir­by Cook, Sci­ence and Oper­a­tions Offi­cer, NWS Seattle)

Test­ing on the new Lan­g­ley Hill sta­tion should be done in time for the storm sea­son this year, which means that weath­er fore­casts for the com­ing win­ter should be more accu­rate than they have been in the past.

Though we have long had a Doppler radar instal­la­tion on Camano Island, it can’t see much of the coast due to the Olympic Moun­tains. That has left coastal towns and inland cities vul­ner­a­ble to incom­ing storms.

With this new sta­tion, we’ll be able to be bet­ter prepared.

“Too often in the past, our weath­er radar cov­er­age gap meant that fore­cast­ers didn’t have the most com­plete data set pos­si­ble to help Pacif­ic North­west com­mu­ni­ties pre­pare for big storms,” not­ed Sen­a­tor Cantwell in a news release cel­e­brat­ing the sta­tion’s activation.

“This new, state-of-the-art radar tech­nol­o­gy will enable Wash­ing­to­ni­ans to bet­ter pre­pare for the impact of the big Pacif­ic storms on busi­ness­es and homes.”

Read­ers inter­est­ed in see­ing a chronol­o­gy of the radar sta­tion’s devel­op­ment and con­struc­tion should check out the com­pre­hen­sive overview that Cliff Mass has assem­bled at his Uni­ver­si­ty of Wash­ing­ton site. It’s extreme­ly informative.

Con­grat­u­la­tions are in order to Nation­al Weath­er Ser­vice on get­ting this new radar instal­la­tion up and run­ning, and again to Sen­a­tor Maria Cantwell for secur­ing the fund­ing. This is a vital emer­gency pre­pared­ness invest­ment that has long been over­due. This radar sta­tion is an excel­lent exam­ple of a cru­cial pub­lic ser­vice that was only made pos­si­ble thanks to our tax dollars.

When we pool our resources togeth­er to cre­ate a com­mon wealth, we can do amaz­ing things. Kudos to every­one involved in this project!

About the author

Andrew Villeneuve is the founder and executive director of the Northwest Progressive Institute, as well as the founder of NPI's sibling, the Northwest Progressive Foundation. He has worked to advance progressive causes for over two decades as a strategist, speaker, author, and organizer. Andrew is also a cybersecurity expert, a veteran facilitator, a delegate to the Washington State Democratic Central Committee, and a member of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps.

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