Rural Leadership North Dakota


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24/7 Weather Radar

by Medora Stevenson

Medora StevensonIn this day and age, we take weather radar coverage for granted.  Many people are unaware that there is an area affecting three states that does not have weather radar coverage for all of the months of the year.  There is a weather radar system in place in Bowman County that could resolve this issue if it was turned on for all twelve months out of the year.  This radar system is owned by the North Dakota Atmospheric Resource Board (NDARB) and is currently only used for the months of May, June, July and August for the Weather Modification Program.  Why does this gap in coverage exist?  The reason this gap exists is simply because the closest radar systems that are in operation by the National Weather Service are located in larger metropolitan areas and are too far away from this area to provide accurate coverage. 

This is where my RLND Community Project comes in.  My goal is to have this weather radar system turned on all twelve months out of the year to fill in the void of radar coverage all three hundred and sixty five days out of the year.  It is very important for the safety of the citizens living in this area to have this radar accessible, especially with the unpredictability of North Dakota weather. 

I have partnered with the NDARB and our local emergency manager to make this goal happen.  Darin Langerud, the director for the NDARB has been very helpful in this project.  I made contact with him through our local emergency manager, Dean Pearson.  Darin and Dean are both very supportive of the project and have helped in many aspects. 

After making contact with these two individuals we decided we needed to make the public aware of this situation.  I contacted our local newspaper as well as a larger paper in a nearby community to address them about running articles.  Both papers ran articles about the radar system. I also gave presentations to our local rotary group and the Extension Advisory Council as well as made brochures to be given out in our community and other local communities to help gain awareness of the situation.  Darin Langerud and I also met in Baker, MT during an emergency management meeting to give a presentation on the radar system.  Many of the emergency managers present were from areas that are directly affected by not having the radar activated for all twelve months out of the year.  Many of the emergency managers were very supportive of the project.  We decided that it would be very beneficial for all counties involved to buy into the system if they could get their county commissioners on board.  The next step is for the counties involved to discuss the situation with their county commissioners.  We are hopeful that the funding will come from the county level.  I have volunteered to meet at the county commission meetings with the emergency managers if they would like.  Darin Langerud has also agreed to travel to the various counties to help explain the situation. 

The NDARB projected that to run the radar for an extra eight months out of the year will cost twenty-five thousand dollars.  This is a large amount of money, but if it is split between the counties that are affected then it shouldn’t be anything that isn’t attainable. 

The radar will be accessible to the public via the State Water Commission website.  County websites will post links to this site for easy access.  The National Weather Service will also use this information while making predictions.  It is hopeful that they will be able to tap directly into the radar so they can use it while forecasting.  Once the radar is up and running local cable providers will be contacted to see if there is interest in using the radar for weather related announcements.  Emergency Operations Centers will also be able to acquire free software that allows them to view the radar in real time as well as dissect the clouds and determine their reflectivity, which is crucial in detecting intense storm systems in time to warn the public. 

Rural Leadership North Dakota has been an amazing journey for me so far.  I have gained confidence in what I do on a daily level as well as a larger scale with community projects.  It has taught me that communication and networking are vital when working on a community project.  Throughout my project I have made some important contacts that have served as vital stepping stones for which I am very grateful.  Lastly, I have learned that through collaboration and an open mind we can make great things happen in Rural North Dakota. 

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