Live Early Warning Doppler 9 detects severe weather first and fast

by: John Ahrens Updated:

Loading
CHARLOTTE, N.C. —

When severe weather strikes, there is little time to prepare. Many people have lost everything in a matter of moments and now the National Weather Service has new technology that they hope will help them give better warning.

Damoryiia Bryant and his mother, Tania Harris-Streater, are relaxed, but when clouds build, so do their nerves.

"If it rains, I get terrified," said Harris-Streater.

The memories of March 3 are still vivid. On that early morning, an EF-2 tornado with winds over 130 mph charged through their back yard in north Charlotte. In seconds, the right side of the house was destroyed, but thankfully she and Bryant were OK.

She wishes she would have had more time to prepare.

"It was already on top of us when I figured out what was going on," said Harris-Streater.

Anthony Sturey at the National Weather Service hopes he can give that time to Harris-Streater's family with their new upgrade to dual-pol technology.

Previously, the National Weather Service could only send a beam horizontally to scan for storms, but now, from their tower they can send out beams horizontally and vertically at the same time. That helps them to better determine exactly what is falling from the cloud, whether it be rain, snow or hail.

"It gives a good real characteristic of what is happening," said Sturey.

The extra power coming out of the radar is more sensitive and can pick up action that may not be rain at all.

"It can show debris that is lofted," said Sturey. "We then have more confidence that this storm is actually producing a tornado."

A huge advance with just one hang up for people in the Charlotte area: with the weather service radar 70 miles away in Greer, S.C., it has the potential to miss storms in Charlotte.

"The earth is curved, so when the radar is shooting, it's shooting up," said Sturey.

The farther the beam travels from Greer the higher it goes. When it gets to Charlotte, the beam is 7,000 feet in the air. Powerful tornadoes can form below that and can develop undetected.

"You've got the dual pol, but it's not going to change the geography, or change the fact that you're 70 miles away. No, that's not going to change," said Sturey, speaking with meteorologist John Aherns.

That's where Live Early Warning Doppler 9 comes in. It has the same dual pol technology as the NWS radar, but with 33 percent more power. A million kilowatts of energy scans the city for severe weather every day, but most importantly, that radar is in Charlotte.

The storm can be seen from top to bottom and at a faster speed. Wherever a tornado may be forming, live early warning Doppler 9's spot in east Charlotte will catch it and catch it quickly, giving Charlotte residents more time to take action.

Harris-Streater said she won't waste a second.

"We go over it and we do drills," said Harris-Streater.