NWS Embarks On $150 Million Radar Upgrades

Sep 21, 2016

Officials say the three National Weather Service radars located in the state are due for upgrades.
The four phase project is set to cost around $150 million  and take around five years to complete.

The NWS radar in Rapid City is one of three in the state scheduled for upgrades.
Credit National Weather Service - Rapid City

The radars are located in Sioux Falls, Aberdeen and Rapid City. Dave Hintz is meteorologist in charge of the Rapid City forecast office.
“Well right now the technology that’s within the radars is based on 1980s technology so if you will they’re kind of running on the same technology of 8-track tapes and cassette recorders, if you will, prone to failure, prone to not lasting too awful long,” says Hintz.
Hintz says the new technology allows operation well into the 2030s.

“And because we’re going to some digital input and some digital outputs, the signal’s going to be cleaner, it’s going to be more precise, we’re going to have better control over the radar,” says Hintz.

He says some upgrades could be difficult and down radars for almost a week.
“Because that’s where we actually have to take the dome off of the radar, we have to take the antenna off of the radar, take the pedestal off and bring it down to the ground, put a refurbished pedestal back up and reattach everything, recalibrate everything, make sure it’s all in balance, so if you had any wind, if you have any storms, I mean we’re looking for just picture perfect weather conditions in order for that one to take place,” says Hintz.

Hintz adds that no upgrades will occur if inclement weather is forecast. He says all three radars are being equipped with the first upgrade by the end of October.