Devils Lake Journal - Devils Lake, ND
  • Lake Region weather spotters get training at Devils Lake Fire Department

  • One of the surest signs of summer in the northern Plains — weather radar — is about to get a new look.


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  • One of the surest signs of summer in the northern Plains — weather radar — is about to get a new look.
    Greg Gust, an official with the National Weather Service, explained the new system upgrades on Tuesday when he was in Devils Lake to conduct a workshop for area residents interested in becoming weather spotters in the region.
    Gust said the current Doppler radar system will soon be replaced by a dual-polarization radar that will be able to detect even more characteristics associated with the storms that will hit the Lake Region in the coming months.
    Gust told the gathering of more than 20 people that the area ranks No. 4 in the nation for the number of tornadoes. He said that 361 tornadic storms were recorded between 1996 and 2005 in the northern Plains, an area that is made up of North Dakota, Minnesota and northern Iowa. Oklahoma and Kansas, often referred to as Tornado Alley, recorded 482 during that same period. Gust added that 580 tornadoes have been confirmed in North Dakota in the past 14 years and half of those have taken place in the eastern one-third of North Dakota.
    Gust said the large number of tornadoes in recent years is linked to the number of wet years that the Lake Region has seen.
    He said the June 17, 2010 outbreak of storms in the Plains was the largest in history with some 74 tornadoes being reported, including one west of Wadena, Minn., that was part of a funnel cloud that stretched 29 miles in length. Gust said the tornado that stemmed from that cloud stretched more than one-mile wide and did widespread damage to the area, including heavy damage to the high school in Wadena.
    Gust said a tornado also associated with that storm touched down north of Mayville, N.D. and was recorded as an EF4 on the recently enhanced scale of tornadoes and was one of 39 tornadoes reported by the NWS in Grand Forks that day. Gust's office covers a 17-county area in North Dakota and another 18 counties in neighboring Minnesota.
    The NWS official said the new warning system will be a better estimator of likely precipitation amounts of storms and will be able to more accurately pinpoint areas that may be in danger of flash flooding. It will even better detect the distribution of snowflakes during the winter months.
    "It's all part of a network of an information system that is intended to keep people safe," said Gust, who added that sirens are designed to alert people outdoors that they should seek cover indoors as an approaching storm has been detected.
    Currently storms are often detected on Doppler radar or by spotters and that information is relayed to people in areas affected by the storm.
    Gust outlined the difference between funnel clouds and tornadoes, which essentially is a rotating column of air that is attached to the ground and often easily distinguished by dirt being churned by the cloud. He also reminded those in attendance to be safe when working as a weather spotter and to keep in mind that with every crack of thunder, there will be lightning associated with it.
    Page 2 of 2 - "If you are close enough to the storm to hear thunder, you are close enough to be struck by lightning," Gust said.
    Gust said people still wanting to become weather spotters can still complete an online instruction by visiting http://www.meted.ucar.edu/training_course.php?id=23.

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