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December 2000 storm will teach forecasters

By By Steve Gillespie/The Meridian Star
Nov. 21, 2001
Meteorologists in training throughout the nation will soon be well acquainted with severe weather that hit Lauderdale County without warning last December.
Doppler radar simulators will use the Dec. 16 tornado to train meteorologists and forecasters within the National Weather Service. The tornado struck Dalewood and Russell communities, injuring 20 people and damaging 100 structures.
Jim Butch, warning coordination meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Jackson, said Tuesday that the storm "displayed certain characteristics on the radar and the decision was made not to warn on it. So they are using that as a training tool for other offices."
John Baxter, National Weather Service warning coordination officer in Meridian, said the weather service has been building case histories for simulators for years.
Baxter said a radar simulator like those being put into operation at National Weather Service offices is being used by military meteorological students at Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi. That has reduced their need for an actual Doppler radar system now in place at Keesler.
Last week, U.S. House and U.S. Senate members voted to spend $3.1 million to dismantle the Keesler radar and move it to a new spot in Rankin County. National Weather Service officials say the radar will provide better coverage for East Mississippi.
The funding awaits final approval from President Bush. At that point, the National Weather Service will survey sites in Rankin County to relocate the Keesler radar system; Butch said a site one mile north of Brandon is preferred.
It may take more than a year to get the Keesler radar in operation at the new site. Butch said a conservative estimate is 12 to 14 months to purchase land, pour a foundation, dismantle the radar on the Coast and put it back together again.
Steve Gillespie is a staff writer for The Meridian Star. Call him at 693-1551, ext. 3233, or e-mail him at