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franklin county times

New Doppler radar could help improve forecasts

By By Sheila Blackmon/The Meridian Star
June 13, 2001
National Weather Service officials are considering relocating a Keesler Air Force Base radar to the Jackson area a move that could improve radar coverage in East Central Mississippi.
Ron Trumbla of the National Weather Service's Southern Region said moving the Keesler radar to the Jackson Weather Forecast Office warning area and setting it up would cost about $3 million.
The move would be federally funded, he said.
National Weather Service officials are considering several sites, including one in Brandon, but have not made any final decisions. The new radar would replace the existing radar with no interruption in service, he said.
Many local residents and officials have been trying to get a radar back in Meridian since it was dismantled in April 1995.
Trumbla said the radar must be "relocated to provide coverage of Central Mississippi not just Meridian," adding that Meridian is "well-served" by the National Weather Service.
He said Jackson officials have "exceeded the national average in severe storm prediction" since Meridian's office closed. The system accurately predicted storms 87 percent to 95 percent of the time from 1995-2000, he said, while the National Weather Service goal for 2005 is 82 percent.
Their warning lead times for the same period ranged from 17 1/2 to 19 1/2 minutes, he said, while the national average is 17 minutes.
Local perspective
When an F-2 tornado struck Lauderdale County in December, Jackson meteorologists said they failed to notify residents because of a judgment error not because of inadequate radar coverage.
Gary Galloway heard Bill Proenza talking about the possibility of moving the Keesler radar at a Mississippi Emergency Management Agency workshop in Gulfport last week.
Proenza is the director of the National Weather Service for the Southern United States.
Sheila Blackmon is a staff writer for The Meridian Star. Call her at 693-1551, ext. 3275, or e-mail her at sblackmon@themeridianstar.com.
Southern Region:
The Southern Region of the National Weather Service is "home to the most active weather in the world."
It consists of New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Arkansas, Mississippi, Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia, Florida, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Half of the nation's severe thunderstorms, flash floods and tornadoes occur here.
Nearly 60 percent of the U.S. rainfall occurs here.
The Southern Region has the greatest number of tropical storms and hurricanes.