Impact of National Weather Service's 'Phased Array Radar' program cut

Thursday, June 19th 2003, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

A bitter wind is whipping up in Congress over a lifesaving weather forecasting tool. President George Bush's latest budget cut a $4-million a year program called the Phased Array Radar program. But the cost to folks in tornado alley could be very high.

News on Six anchor Tami Marler says we hear all about Vipir, live Doppler radar and Pathfinder, but many of us have probably never heard of the wind profiler network. The National Weather Service in Tulsa says this has been its busiest tornado season so far and even with statewide devastation; there have been very few injuries, and one death.

Weather experts credit early warning tools like the statewide wind profiler network. It's a series of invisible radar antennae, that measure winds more than 50,000 feet into the air. There are 35 profilers nationwide. Four here in Oklahoma. They measure wind velocity from the ground, up to 53,000 feet in the air in three directions.

Steve Piltz with the National Weather Service, "That's important when you're trying to determine, are the storms going to try to rotate and produce tornadoes, are we gonna have heavy snow? Having that information every hour instead of every 12 hours like we do with balloons is a huge advantage."

Piltz says no one piece of technology "makes or breaks" the National Weather Service, but the wind profilers are an important part of their confidence in predicting severe weather.