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National Weather Service gets its radar back

The National Weather Service radar station on Mount Ashland is back online after work to replace the pedestal for the radar’s dome and dish.

The roughly $200,000 project is part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Service Life Extension Program, or SLEP, which is intended to extend the life of 159 radar domes across the U.S. through the 2030s, according to Daniel Hoffman, SLEP program manager.

The radar dome, which sits 7,513 feet above sea level, covers nine counties in Southern Oregon and Northern California. The project started Sept. 14 and was finished Sept. 24.

During the project, forecasters relied on a combination of tools, including satellite imagery, lightning mapping software and a radar dome in Portland. But officials are glad to have the dome back.

“The radar is hard to replace when you’re talking about looking at precipitation. There’s nothing nearly as good,” said Weather Service meteorologist Ryan Sandler. “Luckily we didn’t have any widespread storms over our area.”

The pedestal replacement was a meticulous process. Crews had to transport a crane and new pedestal on a flatbed truck up the winding, dirt road to the station, roughly a three-mile jaunt from the Mt. Ashland Ski Area parking lot that took more than two hours, said Weather Service electronic systems analyst Darren Dixon.

“I can’t believe they could do it,” Dixon said.

Crews had to enter the dome, dismantle the dish, lay everything on the dome’s floor, then pull the dome off the main building to replace the pedestal.

“Then, kind of like Humpty Dumpty, they had to put everything back together again,” Sandler said. “And that’s not easy.”

A forecast that called for moderate winds and rain prompted crews to get going on the work early.

“The winds couldn’t be over 18 mph for them to operate the crane the day they removed the dome,” Sandler said. “And rain was supposed to come in, and they can’t take it off with rain, because on our building, if you take the top off, then rain gets into the building. It’s kind of the roof.”

Previous maintenance projects included refurbishing the area where the dome’s backup battery power is stored. The facility’s generator is slated to be replaced in about two years, Dixon said.

Reach Mail Tribune web editor Ryan Pfeil at 541-776-4468 or rpfeil@rosebudmedia.com.

Andy Atkinson / Mail Tribune Ryan Sandler makes his way to the top of Mt Ashland near the radar station for Southern Oregon and Northern California.