NWS upgrades Sioux Falls radar, expects downtime to last another week

Dominik Dausch
Sioux Falls Argus Leader
A crane is seen lifting the radome of the National Weather Service's Sioux Falls Doppler radar above a scaffold Friday, June 24, 2022. The radome houses NWS' radar equipment, which received a major upgrade to its pedestal — a pillar-like component that allows the radar dish to spin and collect data.

The National Weather Service installed a critical piece of their weather warning system with some minor fanfare Friday.

Meteorologists and other NWS staff gathered outside their workplace on Weather Lane to watch a crew replace the pedestal of their Doppler radar. This component allows the radar dish to spin and collect weather data and had been working since the mid-'90s.

A crane operator lifted the radome — a golf ball-shaped shell that protects the valuable radar equipment from the elements — onto a scaffold, where technicians installed a new pedestal over the course of three hours.

Peter Rogers, warning coordination meteorologist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, told the Argus Leader Friday he expected the radar to remain offline for at least the next week. He added NWS will continue to provide weather warnings by relying on adjacent radars in their network, including those in Aberdeen, Rapid City and Des Moines.

Rogers said the upgrade will keep their radar running well into the 2030s.

 "To see this happen today is exciting for us because we know we'll be able to continue our weather warning mission for many years to come," Rogers said.

A crew of technicians watch as a crane lowers the NWS' old radar pedestal to the ground. The new pedestal, hidden in the background, will extend the radar's lifespan into the 2030s.

The pedestal refurbishment is the third major upgrade of the NEXRAD Service Life Extension Program necessary to keep NWS' working. The project is expected to be completed in 2023, according to an NOAA June 3 press release.

Dominik Dausch is the agriculture and environment reporter for the Argus Leader and editor of Farm Forum. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook @DomDNP and send news tips to ddausch@gannett.com.