Fighting flooding


A sophisticated weather tool which will help protect the region in the fight against flooding is now live.

Northumbrian Water, the Met Office and the Environment Agency have invested more than £1 million to build a weather radar station which will provide the three agencies with vital and comprehensive rainfall data.

The advanced equipment constantly sends and receives signals, ‘reads’ 25,000 one-kilometre grid locations every five minutes and provides up to seven million readings a day from across the region.

Thorough testing of the radar has been carried out since completion of its construction in August last year.  The station, which observes rainfall across the entire region, records where, when and how hard it is raining as well as how quickly areas of rainfall are moving.  This helps to evaluate the likelihood of heavy rainfall and the risk of potential flooding.

Reporters and photographers are invited to see the weather radar and how the rainfall data is captured on Wednesday, July 15 2009 at Moorsley Road, High Moorlsey, (near Pittington), Sunderland at 10.30am.  Experts from the Met Office, Northumbrian Water and the Environment Agency will be on hand to explain how the radar works.

A 6.2 metre diameter cream ball (radome), made from double-skinned fibre glass with a foam centre, protects the ‘eyes and ears’ of the weather radar and is raised off the ground by an 11 metre galvanised steel tower. 

Weather radar adviser at the Met Office, Bill Wheeler, said:  “Climate change will bring with it the risk of more extreme rainfall in the future.  This latest addition to our radar network will allow us to better forecast heavy rainfall and the risk of potential flooding across the North East.”

David Chapman, Northumbrian Water’s climate change manager, said:  “Severe and localised rainfall presents many challenges.  The weather radar is a huge step forward in our ability to collect rainfall data and will allow Northumbrian Water to have a better understanding of the performance of our sewerage network in times of heavy rainfall. 

“Rainfall data, which will be loaded into our database every hour, will equip us to investigate storm patterns in more detail and help us to better prioritise and design flood protection schemes.  The radar will also be a valuable tool in gauging water resource levels in the North East.”

Phil Marshall, Environment Agency flood risk team leader, said: "Recent flooding in the North East has shown it is vital to be able to predict where and when rain will fall so we can warn residents and the emergency services about potential flooding and help reduce the risk of damage to property and loss of life.

"Weather radar data forms an important part of the Environment Agency′s forecasting capability. So the improved rainfall forecasts from the new weather radar, when combined with our flood forecasting system, will help us to provide better and earlier flood warnings to people at risk.  We can′t always prevent flooding but we can do our best to warn people so they can take action."

The water company’s secure High Moorsley site has been chosen for its central location in the North East which is ideally located to provide excellent radar coverage of the major urban areas including those most vulnerable to flooding.  Surveys have been carried out and confirm that the weather radar poses no risk to health or the environment.

For further information contact:

Cara Hall, Northumbrian Water, on 0191 301 6720.
Sarah Holland, the Met Office, on 01392 886 655.
Rob Walsh, Environment Agency, on 0113 231 2446.

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