For a Rainy Day


Todd Kleiboer, Web Editor

Atop Whitley Hall there may soon be a CASA (Collaborative Adaptive Sensing of the Atmosphere) radar installed pending the finalization of the grant for its construction, giving the surrounding area a warning of severe weather that more distant radars may fail to register in time.

“The CASA radar is part of an initiative that the North Texas Council of Governments is working on, giving eight sites throughout this region to have a new age in state-of-the-art radar protection for areas east of the Metroplex,” Safety and Risk Management Director Derek Preas said. “They were interested in placing somewhere in this vicinity, after working together…[with many organizations], we decided on Whitley Hall.”

CASA is a partnership between the world of academia, government, and industry to develop a more responsive and revolutionary radar system.

Today’s weather forecasting and warning systems utilize data from high-power, long-range radars that have limited ability to observe the lower part of the atmosphere because of the Earth’s curvature,” CASA’s website reads. “This means that meteorological conditions in the lower troposphere are under-sampled, leaving us with precious little predicting and detecting capability where most weather forms.”

Whitley Hall was a logical choice for the placement of radar because it is the tallest structure in Hunt County, and it is also the tallest structure between the Hunt County area and Dallas main hub where the data from the CASA radar will be sent.

“It’s the prime location for Hunt County,” Preas affirmed. “Anything else is lower in height, so it won’t be as prime as Whitley Hall would be. If it’s not going to go there, it’s not going to anywhere.”

The radar will give the region more advanced protection from severe weather by scanning in the lower regions of the atmosphere that conventional radars may not be able to map accurately, and it allows local organizations a faster response time and larger window for preparation.

“The idea behind this radar is that it’s going to provide an additional layer of protection from weather that radars from the Metroplex can’t pick up here,” Preas elaborated. “That’s why it’s an advanced radar system. It’ll pick up things closer to the ground level that are further away from Dallas, and that provides additional notification and protection during severe weather.”

While the data will be sent to the Dallas branch of the National Weather Service, it can also be used for research purposes by the university and its interested faculty and students, building avenues for valuable environmental research.

“The amount of data the CASA radar is going to collect is fairly immense, and so research capabilities open up which are very valuable for our university,” Preas pointed out. “In the future, we might have additional research because of this. It’s two-tone effect for us: we get the weather protection and we, [the university] as partners, get access to that data.”

The radar is relatively small, its dimensions being three by three by six feet, and once it is installed into the framework and foundation that will be the bulk of the construction, it will be hardly noticeable from the ground.

“The radar is already existing,” Preas said. “What has to happen on top of Whitley Hall is the laying of framework and foundation for the radar. There’s going to be some ironwork fabrication to make the stand to hold the radar. This radar is not going to be a big satellite dish that you’ll see from miles away. You won’t even notice that it’s on top of Whitley Hall.”

The price tag for the construction of the radar is about $475,000, but the grant, which is still not yet finalized by county, will cover about 75% of the cost. The remaining 25% will be paid by a combination of the university and county agencies that support the installation. The completion date, if the grant is finalized soon, is roughly mid-2018.

“It’s an extensive project,” Preas said. “We’ve got to run cables from the ground up 13 stories. We’ve got to connect all the data, connect all the wires, and fabricate the framework. We won’t see this [severe weather] season. Next season, we probably will.”