Last month, NewsChannel 3 told you about a major hardware failure at the National Weather Service transmitter site in Driver. That’s where the weather radio system is located for Hampton Roads. Water got into the cables, and when our temperatures dropped below freezing in January, the cables expanded and snapped, taking the system off the air.
“The fact that it’s a coastal transmitter, serving a high-use marine community, such a large port, I think that’s what helped us procure federal dollars and assets in place quick enough to get the system back on the air as soon as possible,” said Jeff Orrock, Meteorologist in Charge at the National Weather Service Office in Wakefield.
Orrock says for nearly a month, no one in Hampton Roads could get severe weather watches, warnings or forecasts from their NOAA Weather Radio.
But Tuesday, that all changed, when engineers climbed 600 feet high in the sky with brand new cables and a new antenna to get the system back up and running.
“In fact, the antenna itself is rated for much higher wind speeds, so it’ll actually be able to withstand hurricanes and other types of storms [and] nor’easters a little bit better than the old antenna,” said Orrock.
Orrock says if severe weather had broken out, they could have turned the system back on temporarily to warn the public, like during the January tornadoes that moved through Hampton and Isle of Wight County. But for our last two snow events, the Wakefield office decided not to turn the radio on in order to prevent further damage to its transmitter.
“The last winter storm we had, they’re a little bit slower-to-evolve events. It’s not like a tornado, like all of a sudden, hey, take cover. We were able to communicate a winter storm 72 hours in advance so folks were prepared for it,” said Orrock.
And now that the radio system is back up, people can stay prepared the next time inclement rolls in.