What happened to the Rapid City Weather Radar?

RAPID CITY, S.D. – The Rapid City National Weather Service Doppler Radar has been damaged in a “catastrophic failure” that snapped and broke several cables on Wednesday, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

At around 1 p.m. on Wednesday, a metal ‘slip ring’ seized up while the radar was rotating, causing several cables to break, including those which transfer the weather data from the radar dish to the processing equipment in the building below the tower. Eight cables are confirmed broken, but the NOAA says that they may find more once repairs begin.

According to NewsCenter1 Chief Meteorologist Brant Beckman, this shutdown is going to make local forecasts more difficult:

“Being a good meteorologist is 50% weather and 50% cartography. If we can’t track where precipitation is happening on a map, then we have to draw our own map using various tools that take time, energy and resources that slows down the communication process. We’ll have to get creative with our other tools such as ground reports and satellite,” Beckman said.

The tower is covered in ice due to freezing rain on Wednesday, which is expected to make the 100-foot climb required to repair the radar more difficult and slow down the repair process.

NOAA expects that the radar may be disabled for up to one week.

Interested in how a weather radar works? Check out NewsCenter1 meteorologist Anna Hamelin’s look inside one here.


Categories: Local News