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Bemidji Regional Airport, community to be served by Doppler radar

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news Bemidji, 56619

Bemidji Minnesota P.O. Box 455 56619

By about this time next summer, the Bemidji Regional Airport will be under the sweep of a Doppler radar system.

On Wednesday, representatives from the Minnesota Department of Transportation Department of Aeronautics, National Weather Service, Grand Forks, N.D., Beltrami County Emergency Services, Bemidji Aviation, Bemidji Regional Airport, and Lakeland Public Television discussed the need and uses for the Doppler radar system in the Bemidji area.

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Currently, Bemidji has no radar system, but is covered by the edges of the Duluth system to the east and the Mayville, N.D., system to the west. However, because radar is line-of-sight, these systems cannot "see" below 10,000 feet here. So, the weather might be clear at that altitude, but snowing at ground level, or the precipitation might be raining at the high altitude and snowing on the ground.

Bemidji Regional Airport Manager Harold Van Leeuwen explained that the majority of tornadoes and all straight-line wind events occur at altitudes lower than 10,000 feet. Doppler radar registers wind readings and the density of storms, as well as the composition of precipitation.

Standard radar bounces off objects, but doesn't register movement. Doppler radar registers weather by measuring frequency shifts.

Van Leeuwen said the Doppler radar system will be assembled and owned by the state with no local financial input. He said he expects defining the requirements to be accomplished and the hardware available this year with the contract for installation ready for spring 2012 and completion by midsummer 2012.

"The hardest part is defining the requirements; the hardware is off the shelf," he said.

Van Leeuwen said aviation is driving the project, but the Doppler radar system will serve other purposes, such as community weather warnings.

"What we want to do is provide a comfort factor," said Beryl Wernberg, Beltrami County Emergency Management director. "Mainly the awareness and notification of our citizens."

"Everybody wants this to work, and we have the money," Van Leeuwen said. "We don't go out and say it's us (aviation) alone - it's the community. That's why you get help from the state."

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