WASHINGTON, D.C. - The U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee Subcommittee on Commerce, Science, Justice, and Related Agencies included funding requested by U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., for a coastal radar weather system in its 2009 appropriations bill. 

Cantwell asked for a Doppler radar and other equipment needed to track weather patterns along Washington state's coastline, which is critically needed to adequately predict severe storms and protect communities from severe weather. The committee included $2 million in its appropriations bill.

This sum is less than half the $4.5 million required for a new radar station, so even if this $2 million appropriation survives the full congressional funding process, additional money will have to be lined up from other sources.

"Despite having the worst non-tropical storms in the nation, Washington state has the worst weather radar coverage of any U.S. coastline," said Cantwell. "Our nation's weather radar system has a gaping blind spot right over the outer coast of our state, placing our communities at risk and hindering the everyday lives of our citizens. Just last fall, Washington state experienced storms with hurricane force winds and torrential rains that hit right in the heart of this blind spot. The funding passed today by the Senate Appropriations Committee is a major step toward solving this gap and better protecting Washington neighborhoods, businesses, and communities."

Cantwell and others have been pushing for a new weather monitoring system for Washington state. In March, she hosted a roundtable discussion in Grays Harbor with local law enforcement officials, elected officials, representatives from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The meeting highlighted Washington's unique situation and how current radar systems are wholly inadequate to deal with severe winds, rain, and other weather conditions.

  Considering that the Washington coast experiences some of the strongest storms in the nation, with frequent hurricane force winds, often accompanied by flooding and landslides, the safety and economic needs of the region require adequate weather radar coverage. For example, a single radar on the central Washington coast could view storms over 100 miles offshore. Considering the critical nature of weather for a wide range of Northwest industries like fishing, shipping, and timber the frequent use of coastal waters for military transport and military exercises, weather radar coverage for these areas must be addressed and solved.

  In the fiscal year 2008 Omnibus bill, Cantwell secured funding for NOAA to study how best to address the weather radar gap in Washington state.

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