Weather Service Radar Zapped by Lightning – Didn't See It Coming

Friday, 20 Sep 2013 11:15 AM

By Morgan Chilson

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A Wisconsin National Weather Service office got zapped by one of its most talked-about weather topics Thursday – lightning.

“WFO MKX radar sustained a lightning hit this morning. Is temporarily down. Surge protector was affected. Working to restore,” the Milwaukee/Sullivan office posted at 9:08 a.m. on its Facebook page.

That post got an immediate response from Daniel Thornton, “I think (this) is what the word irony is reserved for.”

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A strike hit the ground near the radar and the NWS surge protector was destroyed, reported the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.

“It did its job, was destroyed, but saved the radar from serious damage,” forecaster Steve Davis told the Sentinel.

The surge protector saved the facility from a long down-time, and the four damaged weather radio systems were back up within a few hours, the Sentinel said. The radar was online within 30 minutes of the strike.

The radar is constructed to handle lightning and, if it took a straight-on hit, a lightning rod would have kept the equipment secure. But instead the lightning hit the ground near the radar tower, which allowed the electrical impact to slip into the facility’s wiring system, Davis told the Sentinel.

He explained that the NWS radar system contains redundancies that allow other radar towers to help cover areas if there are problems.

In August, another lightning strike took out Chicago’s NWS radar. Located in Romeoville, the facility was also temporarily offline after the strike, DNA Info Chicago reported. And what’s more, it wasn’t the first time the office had been struck, meteorologist Charlie Mott told DNA.

“Our office is as susceptible as any other place is,” he said. “We can’t move it just because a storm’s coming. We just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

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Related Stories:

Pregnant Woman Hit by Lightning Delivers Baby While at the Hospital

Airport Lightning Strike in Baltimore Halts Flights, Injures Worker


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