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Improved severe weather monitoring

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Next time severe weather hits, people in our area may be receiving more detailed information.

People could be better prepared for a wildfire or severe storm with the help of a new Mesonet weather station in Amarillo. It provides very detailed conditions about wind speeds and direction, to rainfall and moisture content with high resistance to severe weather.

Operations Manager of West Texas Mesonet with Texas Tech University Wesley Burgett says, "We've had one tornado hit up here in McClain in 2007. It went right over the station. Produced 128 miles an hour wind. And that data was relayed directly to the weather service office. Most of our wind data is based on severe storms that are coming in like high winds with blowing dirt that they can use to predict what it's going to be like in the city of Amarillo."

City officials, Texas Tech University and Amarillo's National Weather Service held a dedication ceremony for this remote station Monday.

It also has sensors to determine wildfire conditions. Amarillo Emergency Management Coordinator Kevin Starbuck says, "That will significantly enhance our weather service's ability to do fire weather forecasting. So we'll have much better data on what the weather is doing, and what the potential danger is for fire weather."

It helps give more timely and precise warnings. The Meteorologist-in-Charge at Amarillo's National Weather Service José Garcia says, "They provide information on a almost minute-by-minute basis. So when you have something like a tornado, which is very short lived. Having that wind information, and pressure information can really tell us a lot more about what is happening with the weather conditions currently, that we can't maybe necessarily see on a radar."

The station feeds information directly to the National Weather Service to improve information about severe weather, and fire or winter weather. Starbuck says, "We rely heavily on the National Weather Service for forecast information... Certainly them having the tools to improve their forecast, improves our ability to know what we can expect from whatever weather event that's impacting our community."

The more stations there are, the higher the chances of monitoring a storm and the better able experts can inform residents about severe weather. So they're planning on adding more throughout the city and the panhandle.

Jessica Abuchaibe, NewsChannel 10.

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