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Broken radar system at National Weather Service Pocatello

Broken radar system at National Weather Service Pocatello

It was complete darkness for several days at the National Weather Service in Pocatello. There Doppler radar system went down leaving them blind to incoming storm. Luckily, with somewhat clear skies, and the help from neighboring radar systems, they were able to have an accurate depiction of weather patterns. They also had satellite imaging to help them see cloud formations.

However, with fall around the corner, getting this radar system fixed is pretty important. Without it, forecasting changing storms systems can be nearly impossible. Their Doppler radar system covered the entire snake river plane and beyond; about 250 miles in all directions. Tim Axford, forecaster at the National Weather Service, said, “Like anything mechanical, it will break down over time. So one of our parts, the klistrong broke down so we have to have our technician go out and fix… critical enough to where we couldn't’t use it for a period of time.”

The part that broke down is called the Klistron. “That’s the part that is sent out, the radiation out to a storm 360 degree and then it’ll wait for that response back.”

Without it, they’re blind.

Instead, they had to resort to what is called True Color Imaging through a satellite system. They also received additional weather patterns from other radar systems around the area. “If our radar is down we’ll use surrounding radars as well some of our neighbors. Boise has a radar, Rivertown Wyoming has a radar, Salt Lake City, So if we radar coverage, if we have storms on the periphery in our area, we will use theirs.”

It’s called the 88D radar system, it tracks weather 24 hours a day 365 days a year. It is a very durable machine, so spare parts for it were never needed. Until now. Bryan Tilly, Electronic Systems Analyst explained how uncommon this occurrence is. “We had a power supply failure and we do not have that power supply as a spare. We do have spare stocks but that's not one of the item listed we carry as a stock because it doesn't go down very often. To be honest, I can’t remember ever replacing that item so this is the first time this power supply has ever failed.”

Luckily as of yesterday evening, they were able to get that radar system back and running.


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