NWS radar taken offline as Baton Rouge prepares for severe weather threat. Here’s what you need to know.

BATON ROUGE — With the potential for severe weather for the Baton Rouge area moving in Thursday and Friday, the Capital area finds itself in a unique situation: the closest weather radar is now 145-150 miles away.

Moving the radar

It’s part of a long-term plan by the National Weather Service to move their weather radar from Slidell to Hammond to provide more accurate weather data during severe weather events. The KLIX radar in Slidell was turned off this week in preparation for a move to its new home in Hammond, but that radar won’t be online until March 2024 at the earliest.

“This planned move will will provide a drastic improvement in radar scanning strategies for areas of southeastern Louisiana that currently have poorer radar coverage,” the NWS said. “We will continue to provide accurate forecasts and life-saving warnings during times of active weather. Forecasters will be leveraging alternative sources to continue to meet our mission of the protection of life and property.”

The weather radar is how meteorologist get data to track storms. The radar emits radio waves that bounce off rain, snow or other atmospheric particles which helps determine the speed and direction of the storms.

The radar tilt

The previous radar in Slidell had beams extending some 5,500-7,500 feet above the ground. This allowed for a major coverage gap for the Baton Rouge area. The new radar in Hammond will have a lower tilt that will bring the beam to around 1,800-2,800 feet. This shift may appear minor, but will allow meteorologists to get a better view of severe storms by capturing rotations at lower levels to provide better life-saving information.

While the winter months are typically less active for south Louisiana, there is still the threat that strong cold fronts bring strong storms to the Baton Rouge area. The NWS will be using radar sites in Lake Charles, Fort Johnson, Jackson, Mobile and a limited-range radar at the New Orleans airport in Kenner.

“NWS New Orleans forecasters will be able to use alternative sources to monitor storms and issue warnings for severe storms,” the organization said. “These sources include nearby weather-surveillance radars, real-time satellite imagery, and lightning data from national detection networks.”

While the move from Slidell to Hammond may seem concerning for the north shore, the NWS that the lower tilt will continue to provide similar coverage for all of south Louisiana and southern Mississippi.

Severe weather threat

The Baton Rouge area is under a marginal risk for severe weather Thursday and Friday (level 1 of 4). Heavy rain could lead to isolated and localized flash flooding starting at noon Thursday. Rainfall rates in excess of 2-3 inches per hour is possible.

The storm threat increases on Friday with isolated to severe storms possible. There is a minimal threat for damaging winds, tornadoes, large hail and flooding rain.

Download the Unfiltered with Kiran app from the Apple App Store and Google Play to stay updated on the latest news across the Capital area.

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