Worth the $$?: New Radar to Look for Storms 150 Miles Out into the Pacific


This is a measure I enthusiastically support. While 7 million dollars worth, a coastal radar for the Pacific Northwest is a much needed chunk of technology meteorologists have gone without for years. According to Cliff Mass and the Tacoma News Tribune:

“Th[is] region’s storms more than rival the hurricanes and nor’easters elsewhere in the nation. A storm on Columbus Day in 1962, considered the most intense nontropical storm to hit the U.S. in a century, had sustained winds along the coast of 150 mph, with gusts to 180.”

Cliff Mass says about the storm, ““If it hit today it would cause Katrina-like damage. We get some of the most intense storms in the world [and] we have no radar.”

In fact, Washington State is the only coastal area in the continental U.S. with no radar coverage.

We can think of it this way: right now, meteorologists in the Pacific Northwest are looking at the ocean through a tiny hole. With the addition of a coastal radar, this tiny hole will turn into a massive window, giving scientists a much better handle on storms in this area. Forecast accuracy would improve overall, but it is also not expected that this new radar solve ALL forecasting problems.

Conversely, a commenter on the News Tribune article says (and what I think is meant to be taken humorously):

“This new weather radar won’t just…rob us of our unpredictable weather, it will deprive us of our heritage. We must stop this insidious attempt at making us just another place where picnics can be planned precisely. We must preserve the mystery of northwest weather!” And in a way…I kind of agree. To read the full news story, click here.

So what are your thoughts? This project is already underway thanks to President Obama’s signing of the 2010 Appropriation Bill with 7 million dollars for a coastal radar for the central Washington Coast, but do you think it’s worth the money? Or would it be better used somewhere else?

As for the weather in the short term, it looked like it was going to be a beautiful day today, but clouds are increasing and will continue to do so throughout the afternoon. Rain, while not as intense as this past week, will continue through the upcoming week.

Matthew Leach

Forecasting Kitsap

Questions? Comments? E-mail me at: forecastingkitsap@live.com

30 thoughts on “Worth the $$?: New Radar to Look for Storms 150 Miles Out into the Pacific

  1. I am all for this! It’s been so frustrating living here in the Northwest, watching the evening news and not able to see storms coming in until they’re at the coast, and sometimes not even then. It would be nice to not have to hunt up a website that gives me a bird’s eye view like that.

    I still remember the El Ninos in the early 80s when the weather forecaster could show us the view from the Bay Area clear across the Pacific and we could see those comma shaped storms lined up one after the other. He’d point to the first one and say, “That’s Monday’s storm”, then to the second, “That’s Wednesday”, and so on.

    Even now, with the Bay Area getting ready to be hit with a major Pineapple Express, I feel like I’m blind living up here. I want to know whether that fire hose is specifically turned on the Bay Area or if we’ll get some of it. A broad range radar system would certainly help with that, I hope.

  2. I’m all for it but the price tag seems a bit steep. Wasn’t there a nice used unit available from the Kitty Hawk? I know; probably a different design but I bet it wasn’t even considered.

  3. Wow, great weather site you’ve put together there Matt. Its easy to see the major blank spot in the current radar coverage off the coast. I’m definitely in favor of building the facility.

  4. yep we NEED that radar for us weather forecasters! If you go to my website this morning 2 of the webcams are down due to power outages.
    there was a wind gust at around 4:29 at my house this morning that i think was around 60 mph!!! its insane a weather station near me that i checked this morning (Because mine is broken 🙁 ) had a wind gust at the same time of 54 it was at the bottom of the hill i live on soo…i think around 60 is right. no trees came down but i giant branch did…currently wind is calm. MAN I LOVE A GOOD WINDSTORM 😀

  5. I’m glad you all agree with this proposal. It will really improve forecast accuracy all around here. We need it, especially being the only coastal area in the US without a radar.

    HWS: The price does seem very steep, but I would sure hope they’d look at all options available before signing this deal off. I actually can’t answer that question for you…

    Matt: Sorry bud, I had to edit out the advertisement of your website. You can leave the link in your username, however.

    Kelly: Believe it or not, El Ninos can offer up some of the most severe weather here in the NW when compared to La Nina years!

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