New Doppler Radar

Monday in Brandon the National Weather Service broke ground for new Doppler radar in Mississippi.

"This is going to provide a site which gives us more radar coverage for low-level weather events. So, we'll be able to give you more accurate severe wind events and actually be able to help with the safety of citizens in this part of the state," said Vice Admiral Conrad Lautenbacher, Jr. who is an administrator for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

As with the old radar, the new one will provide coverage for about a 120-mile radius on all sides of its central point in Brandon. This covers the Meridian area and about 50 miles into west Alabama.

However, here's the difference. In areas east of the current radar there were many trees and hills, which interfered with the radar's signals. Officials say the new, taller radarsystem should eliminate this problem.

"This technology in this location will save lives in Meridian, Lauderdale County and east Mississippi at large," said Congressman Chip Pickering.

Much to the delight of Meridian Community College dean, Dr. Kathy Baxter, last year Congress approved $3.1 million for the new radar. In 1997, Dr. Baxter, along with one of her Government classes, took this on as a project.

"We did research. We found out there was a problem and then we wrote to all of the people that we should write to in Congress and they responded," said Baxter.

The last major tornado in Lauderdale County was in the year 2000 when more than a dozen people were injured and a hundred homes damaged. At that time the radar in use did not detect the tornado.

"However, you can't just blame the radar. It really was not a determining factor in that tornado. The main problem is that we just need to learn a lot more about the atmosphere and do more research. That tornado is helping us with research," said John E. Jones, Jr., who is the deputy assistant administrator for the National Weather Service.

The new radar will sit on a 30 meter tower that will be located about seven miles northwest of the current one. It's expected to fully up and running by February.