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Tucson radar down for maintenance with a stormy week ahead

Posted at 5:50 PM, Nov 19, 2019
and last updated 2019-11-20 08:10:07-05

TUCSON, Ariz. — Forecasters are expecting storms, heavy rain and mountain snow this week. Ironically, the Tucson radar is shutdown this week for scheduled maintenance.

Rain flooded roads right on cue this afternoon, not the best time for the Tucson radar to be out this week.

“We are using the tools we have to make do without the radar right now.”

Meteorologist Ken Drozd says the timing can’t be avoided.

The maintenance is part of a multi-year plan with contractors upgrading 159 radars around the country.

This week is Tucson’s week.

“Part of a national upgrade that goes to every radar across the country and scheduled many months in advanced and not really something we can go back on,” said Drozd.

Radar is a useful tool for tracking storms. It can see into a storm at different angles and can give forecasters estimates for precipitation type, rainfall rates, and possible rotation.

“It sends out pulses of energy and spends most of its time waiting on what comes back to it.”

Luckily for southern Arizona this week, there are a variety of other ways to track storms.

“We have adjacent radar sights that help us out, we have an observation network,” said Drozd. “There's also a network of stream and rain gauges that we can look at to see how much rain is falling. “

Drozd says they'll need all those tools as second colder system is expected just around the corner.

“Which will squeeze out even more rainfall and turn some of that rain into higher elevation snow.”

The maintenance being done on the radar is the second of four upgrades that should keep the 20-year-old radar running for another 20 years.

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