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franklin county times

Stefkovich on better Doppler radar coverage

By By Fredie Carmichael / staff writer
May 6, 2002
Mississippi's chief meteorologist says East Mississippi could have better radar coverage within a year.
Jim Stefkovich, meteorologist in charge at the National Weather Service in Jackson, said he is looking for property in Brandon to house a new Doppler radar.
Stefkovich met with The Meridian Star editorial board last week to discuss this and other weather forecasting issues.
The Meridian Star: What is the latest on the new Doppler radar system scheduled to be built to provide better coverage for East Mississippi and Lauderdale County?
Jim Stefkovich: We are in the process of looking at two pieces of property east of the bridge in Brandon. We're working towards leasing or purchasing that property as the location for the new radar site. Right now we feel like we'll be able to hit our schedule date of February 2003 for completion of the new radar to have it up and running unless there's anything unforeseen.
The Meridian Star: How will this affect the radar coverage in East Mississippi and what areas will be affected the most?
Stefkovich: A good portion of East Mississippi will benefit. And it's not really going to help in the forecast area. Severe weather typically starts 24-48 hours in advance. The warning is just a culmination of a lot things that have occurred in the forecast process.
The main problem we're having right now is the radar determining rainfall rates and the amount of rainfall that is falling. That's been kind of difficult for us because the radar doesn't know that there's a ridge to the east because it's not seen. It just says, Well I'm not getting the full return, that must mean the rainfall is lighter.'
Another issue, because the radar is now on the Internet, I've heard many customers from Meridian say that the storms look a lot weaker on their radar and then there's a warning issued. That's because we're not getting a full return.
It's not a problem for us issuing warnings because we see that the storms are stronger than they appear. But even the perception that the storms look weaker, we want to eliminate that once and for all. And we hope this will do that.
The Meridian Star: I understand you've recently increased the power of the weather radio transmitter site at Rose Hill in Jasper County. Tell us more about that.
Stefkovich: We are doing a total revamping of all of our transmitter sites around our coverage area. At the Rose Hill site, which covers this area, we've increased the power from 500 to 1,000 watts. By increasing the power, we have saturated our signal to the area. It doesn't really increase the coverage area, but it saturates the area where there are trouble spots.
We're already hearing form people that are getting a better reception since we increased the wattage a few weeks ago. Now the next step is actually going and doing work on the transmitter sites.
Because Mississippi is such a rural state, weather radio is the only way for people to receive warning. It is my job to ensure that all local weather radio transmitters are operating in their absolute top conditions. And that's what I'm in the process of doing.

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