Sens. Burr and Tillis, Reps. Adams and Pittenger Introduce Bipartisan Bill to Improve Weather Hazard Detection

WASHINGTON – Yesterday, Senator Richard Burr (R-NC), Senator Thom Tillis (R-NC), Representative Alma Adams (D-NC) and Representative Robert Pittenger (R-NC) introduced the Metropolitan Weather Hazards Protection Act of 2015, which will enhance the Doppler radar system in North Carolina. This legislation requires the Secretary of Commerce to operate and maintain a National Weather Service (NWS) Doppler radar within 55 miles of a city with a population over 700,000, addressing a serious public safety deficiency in the North Carolina region. 

“The National Weather Service should be treating all major metropolitan areas the same, but weather experts agree that the current Doppler technology locations in North Carolina are insufficient and do not give meteorologists the tools they need to detect and warn citizens of potentially dangerous weather.  As we know from the tornado of 2012 that damaged up to 192 homes in the Charlotte area, this is a significant public safety problem,” said Senator Burr. “I’m pleased that Senator Tillis and Representatives Adams and Pittenger have joined me on this bill to help protect North Carolinians.”

Charlotte is currently covered by a NWS Doppler radar that is 94 miles away in Greer, SC. However, no other city of Charlotte’s size currently has a radar situated more than 58 miles away. The current location results in a majority of the metropolitan area being without radar beam coverage below 10,000 feet. Due to the circumference of the earth the further a radar is away from a given point, the higher the radar beam scans the atmosphere, leading to lower resolutions and an inability to detect the low-level dynamics of severe weather. Rowan, Cabarrus, and Davidson Counties have an even more pronounced problem with limited radar coverage because of the location of the radar.

This map from Brad Panovich, Chief Meteorologist WCNC-TV, clearly shows the gap in quality radar coverage over Charlotte:


Local meteorologists believe that the lack of quality radar coverage has made it difficult for the NWS office in Spartanburg to detect severe weather, specifically tornadoes. These meteorologists who understand the intricacies of weather in the Piedmont believe that the lack of a NWS Doppler radar in Charlotte contributed to the lack of a warning for a tornado that effected Mecklenburg, Rowan, and Cabarrus Counties in March of 2012 that damaged 192 homes. The failure was not the fault of the NWS, as it can be very difficult to detect rotation in the thunderstorms that tend to effect North Carolina; however, the lack of a Doppler radar for the Piedmont enhances the problem. This legislation will give the NWS, local and state officials, and news outlets the tools they need to protect our citizens.

Letters from three area meteorologists are available here: WGHP, WCNC and WBTV

The legislation:

  • Requires the Secretary of Commerce to operate and maintain a Doppler radar within 55 miles of a city with a population over 700,000.
  • Requires the Secretary, when evaluating potential sites, to take into account adjacent counties with limited radar coverage and that have populations over 130,000.
  • Requires that any new radar include the most up to date technology used around the country.