Dallas-Fort Worth is inching closer to having a ring of advanced radar units up and running when the spring severe-storm season starts.A fourth component of the new radar system was installed Tuesday atop a municipal building in Addison. Over the last year, other units have been deployed at the University of Texas at Arlington, at the University of North Texas in Denton and in Midlothian.“I expect we will have pretty good coverage over most of the Metroplex by storm season,” said Amanda Everly, who is coordinating the radar program for the North Central Texas Council of Governments. Two more of the $500,000 radar units should be operational in Cleburne and northwest Fort Worth by March or April, she said. Scientists, meteorologists and emergency managers say the system will provide five to 20 minutes of additional early warning when tornadoes, flash floods, hailstorms or severe thunderstorms rake the region.The near-ground radar will allow meteorologists to issue more precise warnings for weather threats down to the neighborhood level, according to Brenda Phillips, a co-leader of the project developed by the CASA Engineering Research Center at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Known as CASA, for Collaborative Adaptive Sensing of the Atmosphere, the radar makes scans of storms every minute instead of every five minutes. It also provides higher-resolution images and multiple overlapping views of storm cells.The system will be used in conjunction with the Doppler radar used by the National Weather Service.The Fort Worth CASA unit will be placed on a 50-foot tower on the former site of a 1920s-era water tower on Boat Club Road, said Juan Ortiz, the city’s emergency management coordinator.“We’re making a lot of progress but we had an opportunity to use a better tower platform to support the radar so that caused some delays,” he said.Funded by a National Science Foundation grant, the 10-year, $40 million project is the work of a consortium of government agencies, universities and industry partners.The CASA program is footing the $4 million cost of the eight initial radars. Site hosts pay for installation as well as power, Internet connections and maintenance. Local governments will cover the first year’s operational costs of $500,000.The radar system proved itself during a four-year test in rural Oklahoma. DFW’s 6.5 million people and volatile weather made it the perfect urban setting for CASA’s next five-year study phase, Phillips said.Ultimately, 16 to 20 radars will be needed to overlay the 16-county footprint of the North Central Texas Council of Governments, which has been a key partner in the endeavor, she said.
Steve Campbell, 817-390-7981 Twitter: @stevecamp