An eye on the storm: The Mayville doppler

The Doppler at Mayville, N.D., has been down for repairs and StormTRACKER Meteorologist John Wheeler reflects on the value of this technological miracle.

An Eye On The Storm: The Mayville Doppler
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MAYVILLE, N.D. — Anytime you use the radar on the StormTRACKER app, you're looking at National Weather Service Doppler radar, installed in the 1990s at more than a hundred sites around the country.

Since mid-February, the Doppler at Mayville has been down for repairs. It's pedestal base, on which the Doppler rotates, is being replaced.

For the last 25 years, the National Weather Service Doppler in Mayville, North Dakota, has been providing invaluable information, helping meteorologists tack severe storms and save lives, and showing the general public the weather that's coming out way.

One shining example of the technological advantage of having the Mayville Doppler was August 26, 2007; the Northwood tornado.

Although one life was tragically lost, many lives were saved by the lead time of the warning and the confidence with which the National Weather Service forecasters were able to communicate the danger headed right toward the town.


I asked Greg Gust, Meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Grand Forks, what the Doppler showed that late summer evening.

"It's seeing what we call the debris ball. And that's on the reflectivity image itself. It's seeing what looks like a large amount of material moving right up into the hook area a large amount of debris itself moving right into the hook area. And so for a warning meteorologist, we know, we know, we know t something dramatic is unfolding at that point. So that's come with Doppler is that tornado vortex signature, which is basically the radar saying, 'Look here! Look here! Look here!'", Gust says.

On June 17, 2010, our region was hit by the greatest outbreak of tornadoes Northern Plains history. There were 78 tornadoes in all, 39 of them happened in less than four hours inside the WDAY viewing area.

Another advantage of the Mayville Doppler was revealed that day; it's computer's ability to automatically track multiple storms simultaneously.

So in the case of when you have maybe 1-2-3-4-5 storms, all tornadic, at the same time. We couldn't have done it in any other era, to have that many warnings going on," Gust says.

Of course, Doppler doesn't stop storms from coming. For 25 years, at an initial cost of three million dollars of Federal taxpayer money, the Mayville Doppler has been looking into the eye of the storm, seeing where people can't see, helping forecasters to stay ahead of the storms so people can get to better shelter.

"That's one of the things that's always in the argument. It's the concept of does this save lives? Does this improve something? And of course, clearly this type of warning capability has paid for itself untold times," Gust says.

The Mayville Doppler is expected to be back up and running in about a week. Ready to go for any late-winter blizzards and summer storms.

Related Topics: MAYVILLE
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