CHICAGO (WLS) --Severe weather season is right around the corner. And this year, the First Alert Weather Team has a new tool to help keep your safe!
We are thrilled to introduce LIVE Doppler 7 MAX, the top of the line when it comes to radar technology.
With LIVE Doppler 7 MAX, we have the power to predict and give you a more accurate advanced warning of more kinds of potentially dangerous weather - better than ever before.
Click HERE to view LIVE Doppler 7 MAX in action
Severe weather can strike at any time, often with very little notice. And it's not just thunderstorms or tornadoes.
Winter storms can bring crippling snow or ice. That's why it's so important to have the most accurate information - to deliver the first alert before the storm hits. LIVE Doppler 7 MAX does just that!
"Having your own radar if there is a severe weather event or a super-cell that is producing tornadoes and hail that's moving toward Chicago, you can adjust the radar to just analyze that storm. And that means you are going to get updates every 20 or 30 seconds versus waiting every five minutes or so for the weather service," said Rich Stedronsky, Enterprise Electronics Corporation.
Those updates are crucial to help you make quick decisions to protect your life, family and property. ABC7 is the only TV station in Chicago and the first in the country to own an S-band Doppler radar.
Built right here in the U.S. at Enterprise Electronics Corporation in Enterprise, Alabama, LIVE Doppler 7 MAX utilizes dual polarization along with S-band radar wave technology to give us the most accurate view of what kind of precipitation is falling, where and how fast.
"The reason S-band systems are so advantageous, the frequency they operate at allows them to cut through virtually every storm, no matter how strong it is," said Stedronsky.
In severe weather, how will this radar help keep our viewers safe?
"The timeliness of the data with your new system is huge because you have full control," Stedronsky said. "You're keeping people up to date on near-real-time events as to where the storm is every minute or 45 seconds... those minutes are critical to saving lives and warning people."
And, you can now access the power of LIVE Doppler 7 MAX from your smartphone using the ABC7 Eyewitness News app.
WHAT MAKES IT DIFFERENT?
While the radar will look relatively similar, the data behind it is more detailed and arrives faster than before.
The powerful S-band waves from LIVE Doppler 7 MAX reach farther and cut through the storm clouds. At the same time, twin radar beams from the dual polarization technology provide a unique look at the storm and turn the data into clearer images of any weather phenomenon, even weather that remains difficult for traditional radar to detect.
"The vertical and the horizontal channels... not only give you the intensity of the precipitation you see out there, but it will also give you the type of precipitation, rain versus hail versus snow," said Rolly Keene, ECC staff meteorologist.
We have total control of LIVE Doppler 7 MAX, allowing us to zero-in on a storm and sweep an isolated area to track storms in near real time, instead of waiting for updates from the National Weather Service.
"When you have a tornado coming through or any type of thunderstorm, it's a life or death situation, depending on how intense that storm is, where that storm is moving and where you are located. So you want to know where that storm is, what type of intensity it has and where it's moving so you can seek shelter," Keene said.
That is one of the biggest advantages of having total control of the radar. Updates from the National Weather Service radar can take five to 10 minutes. With LIVE Doppler 7 MAX, we can focus on where we want to keep a close watch and give updates as the storm develops in near-real-time.
HOW WE BUILT IT
Over the last several months, a team of engineers and construction workers have been building LIVE Doppler 7 MAX. Construction began last fall and wrapped up a month ago.
LIVE Doppler 7 MAX is scanning the skies over Chicago and beyond from its perch 150 feet in the air.
Located in Kane County, LIVE Doppler 7 MAX is the fastest and most detailed radar being used right now by any Chicago TV station.
Construction began last fall, with crews unloading nearly a ton of steel for the tower that the radar now sits on.
Work continued seven days a week with crews braving all elements, including bitter cold winter temperatures and wind!
"We came straight from Louisiana, probably three months ago, and it was 100 degrees there, and we got here and it was 10," said David Delk, site engineer. "We've been out here, up top it's been 20 below with the winds blowing, and worked every day. We haven't stopped."
With the tower complete, the next task was to lift the radar up 150 feet to the top. But on that cold February day, the wind made it too challenging. Crews returned the next day, and after several attempts, they finally succeeded.
The last step: The Raydome - a 30-foot-wide house that will protect LIVE Doppler 7 MAX from weather conditions all year round.
Kane County officials asked and we agreed to make the site for LIVE Doppler 7 MAX a conservation easement to protect it for the future.
Also, while the radar stands 150 feet above ground, because of a ridge, the elevation at the site is just shy of 900 feet above sea level, which is almost like having a 500-foot tower downtown that's nearly the height of the Marina Towers.