Atlanta's weather radar no longer dark following two weeks offline

WABE's All Things Considered host Jim Burress and National Weather Service meteorologist Dave Nadler observe the nearly-complete new WSR-88D radar system in Peachtree City on Tuesday, August 8, 2022. (Lily Oppenheimer/WABE)

A critical weather radar system — which forecasters use to understand the severity and scope of threatening weather for the Atlanta region — is back up and running in Peachtree City after a nearly 2-week outage.

The WSR-88D radar tower is around the corner from Peachtree City’s Falcon Field airport. Down a dirt road running parallel to the railroad tracks and up a grassy incline, you’ll find what looks like a massive volleyball plopped on top of zig-zagging steel scaffolding. 

For about the past three decades, the radar inside has spun almost non-stop. Its job is to relay data to Atlanta’s National Weather Service office nearby about high-impact, hazardous weather. That includes everything from severe thunderstorms to tornadoes to snow and everything in-between.

“All of the stuff we see materialize with all those different hazards comes from what we see on the radar,” said Dave Nadler, warning coordination meteorologist with the NWS in Peachtree City.

A meteorologist monitors the severity and scope of weather in the Atlanta region inside the National Weather Service office in Peachtree City on Tuesday, August 8, 2022. (Lily Oppenheimer/WABE)

Nadler said the eight-year, $135-million dollar initiative looks to keep the nation’s weather radars operational for another 20-plus years. So far, the robust system has withstood everything Atlanta’s weather has thrown at it, but it’s not infallible. In 2017, 160 mph winds from Hurricane Maria obliterated one of Puerto Rico’s radar domes as the storm crossed the island.

And despite severe weather and flash floods being a daily event for the past few weeks, technicians with the Florida-based contractor TSS Solutions told WABE they didn’t run into any glitches getting the radar back on track. That’s welcome news to Nadler.

WABE’s ‘All Things Considered’ team took a drive down to Peachtree City, just as storms were brewing and as technicians were in the middle of a few finishing touches.

Lily Oppenheimer contributed to this report.