Advanced radar will improve storm warnings in North Texas



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Posted on April 3, 2013 at 11:15 PM

Updated Thursday, Apr 4 at 1:28 AM

ARLINGTON — During severe weather like last year's tornado outbreak, every second counts.

Now, North Texans have an added resource to pinpoint when that tornado will hit... or where flooding could take your car away.

The University of Texas at Arlington is home to the new CASA radar system, part of an outstanding network that will make a huge difference in forecasting storms — not only this season, but for years to come.

Our cameras captured more than a dozen tornadoes touching down on April 3, 2012. The violent weather resulted in billions of dollars in damages in Forney, Lancaster, and Arlington — yet not a single life was lost.

Nexrad technology is part of the reason; it showed the tornadoes on the horizon.

But a new system called CASA — Collaborative Adaptive Sensing of the Atmosphere — is a game-changer. It's the first of its kind in the nation, and it's now installed at the University of Texas at Arlington.

"The first advantage is going to be being able to see more clearly at a much finer resolution, and be able to see much more frequently," explained CASA researcher D.J. Seo.

Perched high atop Carlisle Hall inside a white bubble, CASA can pinpoint within a few blocks where a tornado will hit.

"You gain roughly four to five minutes advantage in lead time," Seo said.

CASA provides minute-by-minute updates, as opposed to every five to six minutes with Nexrad.

And CASA is designed to monitor atmospheric conditions close to the ground with an extensive network of radar installations.

"We want to see as closely to the ground surface as possible, and CASA systems will do that," Seo said.

The cutting edge technology can also predict where the worst flooding will occur.

UTA is already working with the City of Fort Worth to revise maps for severe flooding. Experts say this will save lives when time is of the essence.

"In several minutes, a lot can happen with tornadoes and flash flooding events, so this will get the warning out much more quickly and also pinpoint where things are happening," Seo said.

A funding issue left CASA's hardware sitting in a warehouse during last year's tornado outbreak.

This storm season, the radar system will give North Texas an invaluable edge at a time when every second counts... and every minute matters.