While national weather-watchers have been focused on Hurricane Sandy's smacking of the East Coast, locals are already looking to next spring's storm season in Texas. A new radar system whose installation started Sunday on a rooftop at the University of Texas at Arlington is expected to improve the precision with which forecasters can predict hazardous weather, helping emergency teams and residents prepare.The white pod set onto UTA's Carlisle Hall is the first of eight advanced radars planned as part of a project out of the University of Massachusetts Amherst called CASA, for Collaborative Adaptive Sensing of the Atmosphere.The new system, a supplement to NEXRAD Doppler radar, will measure the lower atmosphere to provide warnings of tornadoes, hailstorms and other severe weather at least five minutes faster than existing capabilities. Meteorologists might also be able to pinpoint neighborhoods in danger.That would be welcome in a region where it's typical for one end to get walloped by a storm while another gets nothing.Another radar unit is set for installation at the University of North Texas in Denton by the end of the year, with one scheduled for Fort Worth and another for Addison by the spring storm season, which starts in March.CASA, itself a collaboration of universities, the National Science Foundation and industry partners, has formed a partnership with the North Central Texas Council of Governments, UTA, UNT, the National Weather Service and private companies for the Dallas Fort Worth Urban Demonstration Network (bit.ly/I1pdE2), which initially will run five years at an estimated cost of $10 million.An executive council that holds monthly public meetings includes representatives from area cities and counties, plus Hillwood, Southwest Airlines and TV meteorologists. (bit.ly/PCS1qM)The universities will conduct research: UTA plans to analyze rainfall to help predict flash flooding, The Shorthorn reported. (bit.ly/U8lSTQ)CASA, which is funded through an NSF grant, is providing the first eight radar units. UTA, UNT, Fort Worth and Addison are covering installation costs of $35,000 to $40,000. CASA researchers and the universities will pay $1.5 million to $2 million for the yearly research/demonstration costs, CASA Deputy Director Brenda Phillips said. And local governments are expected to cover the annual operating costs of $500,000.The North Texas executive council has discussed collecting membership fees from participating entities starting in 2014 and seeking private funds.Considering that tornadoes and hail caused $1 billion in damage in the Dallas-Fort Worth area in just the first week of April, the investments in better detection could be worth it.