DERMOTT, Ark. – Severe weather can strike anywhere, but not all areas have the best ability to catch the threat.
Parts of the Arkansas Delta are over 100 miles from the nearest radar creating gaps in coverage, but that’s about to change.
Currently, when a person receives a tornado or severe thunderstorm alert, it is thanks in part Next Generation Weather Radar Network (NEXRAD), but for the last couple of years, a private company has been deploying radars in areas not served well by the current National Weather Service network of radars.
On top of the Dermott water tower overlooking the Arkansas Delta, there is a new eye in the sky. A Climavision radar with a mission.
“We fill in the low levels in between the NEXRAD radars,” Climavision CEO & Founder Chris Goode explained.
Radars send beams at a slight upward angle to collect data, so the further the distance from them, the less lower atmosphere data can be found. Dermott sits where Goode said is the “perfect location” between radars in North Little Rock, Memphis, Jackson and Shreveport.
“These gaps have been there for decades but due to volatile weather being on the increase, changing climate, it’s becoming more and more important to detect lower-level information,” Goode said.
The private company boasts its radars have 10 times the NEXRAD resolution within a 60-mile radius.
To make a profit they are in a research agreement with NOAA and the National Weather Service for access. They also sell radar data and weather forecasting models to commercial companies in industries like agriculture, insurance and aviation.
Local partners, like Chicot County Office of Emergency Management, can freely use the data and help alert citizens. Chicot County Office of Emergency Management Director Tim Chennault said he’s most excited with how more resources will help us protect citizens.
“Climavision reached out to us and told us what they could provide, and so immediately it was something we were interested in,” Chennault said.
Emergency management agencies in the county looked at every water tower in the county to find a suitable spot, and Dermott’s fit the needs not only due to location but a recent update to the tank which gave easy access to structural records.
“Climavision worked very quickly,” Chennault said. “I think we signed the contract in September, and we are in November, and we have the radar installed.”
Dermott Fire Chief Damond Coffey said he expects training to conclude by the end of the year which will give them access to radar data.
Climavision plans to fill every gap they perceive in radar system by installing 200 radars across America. That includes another radar to be in southwest Arkansas and another one or two in north Arkansas.
Climavision claims last summer one of their radars in Texas detected a tornado a full 21 minutes ahead of the NEXRAD system.
“Not that the existing network isn’t solid, but supplementing these low levels and having a complementary service to have augment the existing network paid off,” Goode said.
Chennault said he’s also noticed a one to two minute delay between the NEXRAD radar data and the weather he is seeing in town.
“(With this radar) we can issue a warning a lot faster. Instead of waiting two minutes to see something that’s happening, we can see it in real time,” Chennault concluded