The city of Midlothian received its newest addition last Tuesday when crews installed a Collaborative Adapting Sensing of the Atmosphere (CASA) radar at the Midlothian Police Department Justice Center. The state-of-the-art weather radar will be used to help spot tornadoes earlier. It is part of a network of sites 25 miles apart.
Mayor Pro Tem Joe Frizzell said there are many advantages to having the radar in Midlothian, and he believes the surrounding cities, as well as the residents of Midlothian are going to benefit from it.
“One of the greatest advantages about this radar is that it will provide a weather update every minute,” Frizzell said. “Most weather radars today only provide updates very five minutes. When you consider this, in the midst of a tornado, this can be life-saving.”
It will also aid those who serve in the emergency management field, health care professionals and education Frizzell said.
“This new technology will give emergency management and those who work in weather service the ability to provide better pre-warnings,” he said.
Frizzell said the technological advance of the CASA radar is not foolproof, but it's much better than what has been previously available.
The system is able to make updates within one minute due to “smart scan” technology that allows the CASA WX system to automatically focus on and track weather events.
The new system is able to create higher resolution images than the NEXRAD system, which aids meteorologists in identifying the telltale “hook” of a tornado forming, providing an earlier warning.
The system is able to produce higher resolution images through use of dual-polarization technology.
Instead of a single beam, the CASA WX radar sends out a horizontal and vertical beam, allowing it to not only create better images of storms, but better detect rain, hail and particles in storm clouds.
Flash flooding is the leading cause of weather-related deaths in Texas at about 200 deaths per year. CASA WX will be able to better estimate rainfall in specific areas and give an earlier warning of flash floods.
All of the data collected by the CASA WX system will be delivered to emergency managers throughout the Metroplex, and will be available to local news stations and meteorologists through a subscription.
“I'm so proud of Midlothian and what we've been able to accomplish,” he said. “This is the first time a public and private entity have come together to collaborate on this sort of project.”
City Manager Don Hastings echoed Frizzell's comments by adding that they should be proud to be the only city in North Texas to implement the CASA radar.
“This shows that we were able to mobilize ourselves as a community and partner with corporations to minimize the cost to the community,” Hastings said. “We have wonderful local corporate sponsors of this project, as well as on the North Central Texas Council of Governments. They have done a great job facilitating the grant initiative for this.”
When the city council first began discussing the process it would take to have the radar installed, Hastings said they were doubtful, because of the financial aspect of the project. He said when the corporate citizens began weighing in on the project and chose to donate materials and funds, it became a no-brainer.
“We truly appreciate our local corporate sponsors for taking on a project of this magnitude and partnering with us to make it a reality,” he said. “Gerdau contributed the largest amount as they were instrumental in the design and the fabrication of the tower, which made the project possible.”
Hastings said he believes the CASA radar is going to ensure that the citizens of Midlothian and the surrounding areas will be much safer.
The installation of the radar in Midlothian is the third radar added in the tornado-prone Dallas/Fort Worth area as part of a collaboration between CASA and the North Central Texas Council of Governments.
The CASA partners began deploying their radars to the Dallas/ Fort Worth area in 2012 to prove the technology could work in urban areas. Before that, researchers tested the radars in a rural area of Oklahoma.
“We proved our network of radars could detect severe weather earlier than other systems,” said Colorado State University professor V. “Chandra” Chandrasekar, who serves as a CASA deputy director and leads the development of the center’s radars.
Forecasters have long relied on high-powered, long-range radars to spot tornadoes and report severe weather. Because of the curvature of the Earth, these systems don’t collect much data from the lower regions of the atmosphere where most weather forms.
CASA’s radars solve this problem by operating at a short range and scanning the lower atmosphere. They also transmit data every minute rather every five like other systems.
"Our ultimate goal is to have 16 to 20 of these radars covering our 16-county region so we can detect and forecast severe weather earlier,” said Amanda Everly of the North Central Texas Council of Governments, which is organizing the project locally.
The following companies contributed services, materials and equipment to cover the installation costs of the project. The radar unit was provided by Ridgeline Instruments, which licensed the technology from CSU. Texas-based Orbital systems provided the pedestal for the radar.
Other donations include:
• Gerdau Long Steel North America - tower design, manufacturing and installation
• Texas Industries Inc. – concrete
• Circle H Contractors LP – tower foundation
• Midtech Power & Control LLC – electrical and fiber runs
• Jakan Engineering, PLLC – site and foundation design
• Geotech Environmental Equipment, Inc. – geotechnical services
• J.D. Abrams LP – crane operation
Funded by a National Science Foundation grant, CASA is a consortium of the University of Massachusetts, Colorado State University and the University of Oklahoma.
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