People survived Wednesday's tornado in Branson because of radar imagery. Notice the detail -- this cluster shows debris swirling in the air as the twist struck this city of ten-thousand people.
Images were captured by new Dual Polarization radar technology, the most significant upgrade to America's weather radar system since Doppler in the early 1990's.
Dr. Jack Hayes directs the National Weather Service. The agency has launched "Weather Ready Nation," looking to improve its severe weather forecasting and alerts.
This initiative will replace its one-dimensional radar with new Dual-polarization technology, which sends out both horizontal and vertical pulses. The new radar cuts through darkness and rain to pinpoint tornado winds and makes forecasters more confident to give direct, accurate warnings about twisters. "With Dual-polarization, we are going to know that's a tornado. We are going to get a two-dimensional view that will help us detect the difference between heavy rainfall that occurs in storms all the time and debris that will kick up," says Dr. Hayes.
Installing Dual-Polarization radar will cost $50 million.
44 of them are already in place nationwide. 160 will be by year's end.
And the new storm tracking system paid off early Wednesday morning.
Around 12:45am, forecasters at the National Weather Service station in Springfield, Missouri warned a tornado was heading for Branson. At 1:23 am, the twister touched down. With tornadoes, 20 minutes warning is typically considered a victory. People in Branson had 35 minutes warning.
The alert interrupted broadcasting on radio and television stations.
And all of America's major cell phone service companies have agreed to send out text message alerts to the cell phones of everyone within a storm zone.
The upgrade to Dual-polarization radar is expected to be completed this September. And while we don't see that many tornadoes out here, the dual polarization will help in many other ways, including determining whether precipitation it's seeing is rain, hail or snow.
Saturday, May 25 2013 2:16 AM EDT2013-05-25 06:16:04 GMT
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