Bill that could help fix East Texas’ weather radar dead zones passes House

TYLER, Texas (KETK) — East Texas Representative Nathaniel Moran’s Rural Weather Monitoring Systems Act, also known as H.R. 4654, passed in the House on Tuesday, as part of a bill to ensure that U.S. weather systems are at the forefront of reliable weather forecasting and prediction.

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H.R. 4654, introduced by Moran in July 2023, addresses key challenges with rural weather monitoring systems including geographical differences in availability, effectiveness of rural weather monitoring systems and the number of rural areas currently affected by unreliable or unavailable monitoring systems to help track life-threatening weather events.

Moran said accurate weather forecasting in rural areas like East Texas is a challenge in the United States due to technological limitations. NEXRAD radar systems, a system of Doppler weather radars that detects wind and rain and maps precipitation patterns, are positioned in metropolitan areas across the nation leaving many rural areas with less weather data. In East Texas, the two closest NEXRAD radars are in Shreveport and the DFW metroplex, leaving many East Texans without access to critical weather data, Moran said.

“For the safety and security of rural Americans, establishing access to accurate weather monitoring systems that have the ability to track life-threatening weather events makes all the difference between life and death. Identifying areas where weather radar can be improved is crucial for the safety of our communities in East Texas and protecting key economic sectors – including agriculture, aviation, water and energy,” Moran said.

Moran joined KETK’s In Focus on August 2023 to discuss the threat of having dead zones in East Texas due to NEXRAD’s reach.

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The congressman said giving people a proper heads-up during severe weather is crucial and can mean the difference between life and death, an issue expanding far beyond politics. The act would be the first step for Moran to get East Texas the coverage it needs.

“If we’re successful, what we’re talking about here is building the data and the information to then use for the appropriations process next year and to move forward with getting something done next year with a money sign in front of it,” Moran said.

Moran’s weather act is part of the Weather Research and Forecasting Innovation Reauthorizations Act of 2023 that would improve severe weather forecasting by modernizing research programs including tornado warnings and hurricane forecasting. The bill would also support cutting-edge forecasting by establishing new research and development programs of radar, atmospheric rivers, coastal flooding and storm surges.

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The bill was introduced by the House Science, Space and Technology Committee Chairman Frank Lucas [R-OK] and is cosponsored by 29 Republican and Democratic members.

“I cannot stress enough how crucial it is to invest in our country’s weather system. The tornadoes that occurred over the weekend serve as a reminder of the need for early and accurate forecasting of severe weather. And it’s not only in emergencies but also in our daily routines, from deciding what to wear in the morning to efficiently planning when to plant crops,” Lucas said.

The bill will now head to the Senate and if passed will then go to the president’s desk pending his signature.

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