Regional Weather Radar System Project

La Plata County has partnered with the Colorado Department of Local Affairs (DOLA), the Colorado Water Conservation Board Water (CWCB), and the Colorado Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management (DHSEM) to acquire, install and operate a permanent weather radar station in southwest Colorado on land adjacent to the Durango-La Plata County Airport. The radar will be locally owned by La Plata County and the County will be responsible for coordinating the ongoing operation and maintenance of the radar for a period of 10 years after installation and activation.

The lack of radar coverage in southwest Colorado due to range limitations and beam blockage poses significant challenges for detecting weather events pertinent to public safety warning decisions.
LaPlataAirport PP slide 

Weather forecasting/nowcasting of serious storms in areas of beam blockage is increasingly dependent on weather spotter reports, which may be limited in information or give little to no early warning. Lack of radar-estimated precipitation may also limit the value of quantitative precipitation forecasts.  During the 2018 416 Fire and ensuing flood events, the lack of adequate weather radar in southwest Colorado prevented local officials from accurately tracking the storm cells, predicting precipitation amounts, and providing early evacuation notification to citizens in the at-risk areas.Herald radar graphic

Finally, there are many other uses for weather radar, including: aviation safety, severe weather forecasting, weather modeling, snowpack modeling, hydrologic modeling, tornado warnings, bird and bat tracking, lightning detection, Department of Transportation snow removal, airport snow removal, avalanche forecasting, etc.  The amount of radar displays and analysis that can be completed once the surveillance is in place and the question “How much precipitation fell?” is answered is almost limitless. 

County staff has begun work with state and federal subject matter experts to draft a request for proposals for construction and project management with anticipated site preparation and construction scheduled to begin this summer or fall.