It was a historic sight at the National Weather Service office in Santa Teresa as meteorologists watched their radar dome being taken off its tower — one of the tallest in the country — for the first time in two decades.
It’s all part of the Radar Service Life Extension Program, which is basically an upgrade to the radar, ensuring it keeps running for the next 20 years.
“Our radar is like a big computer, and it’s been running continuously for 23 years,” said National Weather Service Meteorologist Laren Reynolds.
Like anything that has been running for 23 years, the NWS is making sure the radar has the updates necessary to continue running well into the 2030s and beyond.
The NWS radar in El Paso started service in March of 1996 and has been operating continuously ever since.
Now, with the maintenance work it is going through, the radar will be down for about three to four weeks.
“We have never had the radar dome off before, and this is the longest scheduled outage of the radar we have ever had,” said Reynolds.
The NWS relies heavily on the radar to issue severe weather watches and warnings, but the timing of this radar outage is no coincidence.
“We chose this time of the year because it is when we don’t have as much severe weather going on,” said Reynolds. “If it does happen, because it is weather, our meteorologists are still going to be able to issue those watches and warnings and fulfill their mission to protecting life and property.”
The next site to go through this process is the Holloman’s radar near Alamogordo on April 29th.