NWS Chicago radar (KLOT) back online after receiving major upgrades

Published: May. 21, 2022 at 8:29 PM CDT
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ROMEOVILLE, Ill. (WIFR) - The current Doppler radar at the National Weather Service in Romeoville began operations in 1993. Because it runs all day, every day, wears and tear on equipment are expected. Now after being offline for nearly two weeks, the KLOT radar is back in service after receiving bigtime upgrades as part of the NWS’s $135-million Service Life Extension Program.

Chris Darnell is an Electronics Technician for the NWS Chicago office and he’s part of the team that replaces the radar pedestal as part of its life extension program. This was no easy task to achieve. Chris says, “This is so visible. This is why you guys see this so much and it’s a big deal. In a few years past, we’ve done full upgrades on our transmitter. We’ve done full upgrades on the generator and stuff like that. The difference is all of that is transparent for the most part. It’s something we see but it’s not something that requires a giant crane.”

Replacing the pedestal is important and no easy task. The radar itself had to be offline and the dome needed to be removed. The 16-foot fall, 15,000-pound pedestal is what supports the radar dish itself. With its daily operation, it comes as no surprise the replacement needed to occur.

NWS Chicago Warning Coordination Meteorologist Mike Bardou says, “The benefit for us is going to be reliability and longevity. The system that’s nearly 30-year-old is getting upgraded, that’s a really important step. We want to have the radar running all of the time of course. This is one of 159 radars across the country that’s receiving this upgrade.”

Our current network of radars has been in use since the late 1980s and early 1990s across the National Weather Service. This type has gotten numerous upgrades including the major ones like the one in Romeoville just underwent. This entire project for the KLOT radar still has a few more steps to go before the extension program is complete on the radar.

That technology will hopefully be in use until the 2030s before we move into the future and that’s what they’re calling the Phased Array radar. There’s no known time for that to start yet as this technology is still under development. Nonetheless through, Darnell and Bardou are still very excited because the possibilities are endless.

Bardou adds, “To be outside as they lift the dome and all of the parts associated with it with ropes and thinking about winds. It’s an impressive thing to see.”

“This isn’t again something that’s going to happen too often so I don’t want people thinking that we don’t have a reliable system because we absolutely do. 30 years is pretty good, let’s go for 30 more I think we can do it,” Darnell says.

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