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franklin county times

Doppler radar still provokes discussion

By By Sheila Blackmon/The Meridian Star
March 4, 2001
The weather radar system in Jackson may be relocated to give East Central Mississippi residents better coverage and earlier warnings of severe weather.
When an F-2 tornado hit the Dalewood and Russell communities in December, residents didn't have sufficient warning. National Weather Service officials in Jackson said they issued no warning because they made a human error not because they lacked radar coverage.
But many local residents and officials want Doppler weather radar restored here. National Weather Service officials removed the radar system when they closed their Key Field office in 1995. Meridian Mayor John Robert Smith said he contacted Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, R-Miss., U.S. Rep. Chip Pickering, R-Miss., and U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Miss., and asked what they could do to help.
Lott spokesman Lee Youngblood said Lott and his staff are discussing options with officials at the U.S. Department of Commerce, which oversees the National Weather Service. He said Lott will continue to work toward "fixing the coverage hole that apparently exists."
Mike Chappell, a spokesman for Pickering, said Pickering and his staff are working on the problem in the appropriations process, which won't be complete until July or August.
Chappell said the head of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration hasn't been named under the Bush administration. He said Pickering and staff members believe the new NOAA administrator and others in the Bush administration will be supportive.
Youngblood agreed that a new administration may bring new support.
Eddie Ivy, director of the Lauderdale Emergency Management Agency, said local officials continue to work toward better coverage but "nothing has changed."
He spoke with emergency management officials in Sumter County, Ala., last week about the problem.
Sumter County residents get their severe weather warnings from Mobile, Tuscaloosa and Birmingham radars, he said. They also get warnings from Jackson broadcast through Meridian's media.
Youngblood said he doesn't know whether having Alabama legislators involved will affect federal funding.
Sheila Blackmon is a staff writer for The Meridian Star. E-mail her at sblackmon@themeridianstar.com.