It’s not always the nastiest storms imaginable that can cause the biggest problems. And unfortunately the Des Moines National Weather Service was reminded of that on Friday Night. A thunderstorm was moving through the Johnston area, where the office is located (just northwest of Des Moines). A lightning strike hit the NEXRAD radar, taking it offline. As of this morning, the radar and some phone services remains offline.
According to the National Weather Service website, replacement parts were ordered first thing this morning. Forecasters there hope to have the radar back up and running tonight, but it could take much longer than that. Having a breakdown on the weekend, let alone a holiday weekend, is very bad timing. To make matters worse, there is some concern that severe weather could move through central Iowa, especially later tonight.
But the NWS is not blind, and they do have contingency plans for a situation such as this. One reason why the NEXRAD radar network was deployed in certain areas was for a situation like this. In the event of a radar shutdown, the surrounding radars can assist in detecting severe weather. Sure, it’s not as accurate or detailed as normal, but it’s still a useful tool. Even so, I’m sure there are a number of meteorologists in Des Moines right now eager to get that dish spinning again.
Editor’s note: Our thanks to storm chaser and photographer Paul Brooks for sharing the photo above with us. Paul captured this photo very early this morning near Wilton, IA. Remember, you can share your pictures with us by emailing them to firstname.lastname@example.org