The weather folks at WSOC-TV Channel 9 are getting an early Christmas gift: new weather technology that will enhance their forecasting capabilities.
If you were driving down Albemarle Road near I-485 last week, you may have noticed workers in a basket suspended from a crane above the tree line behind Jake's Good Eats restaurant.
The workers were installing the equipment - a white sphere, 16-feet in diameter, atop a lattice tower - for Channel 9. The station's new Doppler Radar, in use at only two other stations in the country, will allow meteorologists to get a more detailed look at storms and help them differentiate between areas of rain, hail, sleet or snow.
Channel 9 meteorologist Steve Udelson says the radar uses dual pole technology, which sends out beams simultaneously in two directions - horizontally and vertically - to provide a 3-D view of conditions. It's also much more powerful, covering a wider area with more accuracy.
The current system operates at 350,000 megawatts. The new system will operate at 1.2 million megawatts.
Udelson says that with the new radar, the station's storm-tracking capabilities will top that of the National Weather Service.
"This is a quantum leap from what's out there now, and we will be able to measure winds and other conditions much more accurately than the National Weather Service, whose closest office is 75 miles away," said Udelson.
"This is not cutting-edge, it's bleeding-edge technology."