Weather radar approved for Williams County

WILLIAMS COUNTY, N.D. - Severe weather in Williams and McKenzie County is usually undetectable by the current radar systems.

It’s a problem because of the devastation that has and can occur due to insufficient radar coverage, according to Williams County Emergency Manager, Mike Smith.

A new radar that will solve this issue was recently approved by the Williams County Board of County Commissioners and the 1% Public Safety Committee. It will be located at the Williston Basin International Airport.

Smith says quick moving and harsh atmospheric conditions are currently monitored by regional radars in Stanley and Bowman, but coverage strength depends on the radar's proximity to a specific area. Those regions are also covered by the National Weather Service radars in Minot, Bismarck, and Glasgow, Mont., but those systems can only detect weather above 10,000 feet.

"They do not know what's going on under that 10,000 foot mark, and that's where severe storms with large hail, high winds, and even tornadoes occur,” explained Smith.

The new radar will reach 90 to 120 miles from its location at the airport. This means it will offer better coverage to Watford City and Tioga, where severe weather has devastated families in the past because of the current radar's inability to locate low-level conditions.

The radar will allow the airport to more accurately detect dangerous low-level weather conditions for their pilots and passengers. The next steps will be selecting a radar system and getting FCC and FAA operation approval. A Williams County sales tax that has been in effect since 2015 will pay for the system.