Building the WAAY 31 StormTracker Early Warning Radar Network

The building process took nearly two years. The installation process took roughly eight months from start to finish.

Posted: Jun 10, 2020 3:29 PM
Updated: Sep 23, 2020 10:14 PM

The WAAY 31 Early Warning Radar Network is the only radar system that can cover every neighborhood in North Alabama. In fact, the coverage spans three states – Mississippi to the West, Tennessee to the north, and Georgia to the East.

No matter which direction a storm comes from, WAAY 31 is able to provide an even earlier warning.

ADDITIONAL COVERAGE

The three Doppler radars that make up the WAAY 31 StormTracker Early Warning Radar Network is the only radar system that can cover every square inch of North Alabama and provide earlier warnings with precise, real-time accuracy that can see storms other radars miss. Other radar systems, including the National Weather Service, have significant gaps in their radar coverage areas to see storms closer to the ground. With Doppler radars located in Muscle Shoals, the Decatur-Huntsville area, and Guntersville, the WAAY 31 Storm Tracker Early Warning Radar Network is the largest privately-held weather radar system in the United States.

The three radars are located in Muscle Shoals, Decatur, and Guntersville. They work together to provide different views of approaching storms. The data is compiled to provide the most detail you can get anywhere.

The WAAY 31 Early Warning Radar Network Locations

  • Muscle Shoals
  • Decatur
  • Guntersville

By having each radar scan smaller portions of the area, these Doppler radars create a composite image than is up to 10-16 times higher resolution than the National Weather Service. It also produces storms as much as 5 minutes faster. The National Weather Service radar can take 5-6 minutes to do a complete scan rotation and display an image. It’s designed to cover wide areas.  These smaller, but strategically placed, radars can complete a scan of an area and deliver pictures with 5-6 seconds. In a tornado, that 5 minute warning might be the difference between life and death. And, the images it produces are high resolution – more than 10 times the resolution provided by the weather service.

The building process took nearly two years. The installation process took roughly eight months from start to finish.


The radar network was built by an Alabama company. EEC is one of the world’s largest radar builders. They currently have radar systems deployed in more than 90 countries around the world.


The Largest Privately-Held Radar Network in the United States

The radar network is one of the most sophisticated systems ever built. These are Doppler radars, using X-Band and dual polarity technology, which form the largest privately-held radar network in the U.S. It’s the only radar system that sees every area of the Huntsville TV market.

Filling in the Safety Gaps

Other radars can have difficulty seeing the details needed in areas around the state. We call these “safety gaps.” If a storm forms in these gaps, it can be missed by traditional radar systems. The images the WAAY 31 Early Warning Radar Network gets will be even higher resolution and more detailed than anything you can get anywhere. “The weather service has what they call High Resolution,” said Michael Knight, Vice-President of Development and Innovation at EEC. “That’s about 250 meter spatial resolution.” With the WAAY 31 Early Warning Radar Network, you get about 16 meter resolution.

“It’s more than 10 times the resolution,” he said. “It’s a much clearer picture.”

The National Weather Service radars are located in Columbus, Mississippi and Hytop, Alabama. In some cases, these radar can be 60 miles are more away from storms which make it difficult to get the high resolution data you need.

Huntsville/Madison
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Decatur
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Huntsville/Madison
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Decatur
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