In La Plata County, Colorado, a handful of people gather together as the bulldozers begin to break ground, kicking off the endeavor to build a 70-foot radar tower to support a C-band radar at the Durango-La Plata County Airport.

La Plata County, named for the La Plata River and La Plata Mountains, has long waited for this weather radar. The Four Corners region experiences numerous weather systems that organize on the plateau and proceed eastward through Colorado and into the central U.S. Because of the earth’s curvature and obstructions from the mountains, the closest radar in Grand Junction cannot accurately detect precipitation in the region. Unfortunately, the La Plata area lacks adequate coverage. But the project, to be finished by this coming Summer, will fix that problem.

“The radar will fill a hole in the National Weather Service’s (NWS) coverage of radars across the U.S.,” said Baron Weather Vice President of Integrated Weather System, Jon Tarleton. “The Baron radar will have the same capabilities that the NWS radars are equipped with, so this new system will fill in that gap while creating accurate forecasts to maximize life-saving potential by protecting residents from severe weather."

Groundbreaking for a c-band radar. Weather radar will be in La Plata County

Weather radars are produced with various radio frequencies; each has its strengths and weaknesses, so the correct radio frequency must be chosen. La Plata County chose Baron to provide the C-band dual-polarization weather radar with turnkey installation – including all civil works such as the tower and shelter – along with a Lynx, a Baron radar display and analysis system, ultimately leading to essential forecast improvements in the region for winter weather, flooding, and thunderstorms.

“La Plata selected a C-band radar, which is better than an X-band during heavy rains because a C-band has a longer range. It can see precipitation while still being an economical solution. That makes it a perfect fit for the County," Tarleton said.

Ready and Waiting for a C-Band Radar

According to La Plata County Manager Chuck Stevens, the county and its residents are enthusiastic about improving their ability to plan for critical, weather-related emergencies. Real-time weather surveillance is critical for life-safety-oriented emergency operations planning, evacuation planning and activation, and issuing emergency warnings.

“The county is anxious to have this capability in place to allow for early forecasting and notification of severe weather events to ensure the safety of our residents,” said Stevens.  “Our community strongly supports this project and is anxiously awaiting its completion. There is a sense of excitement and anticipation.”

The importance of this radar is not lost on Baron Chief Engineer of Radar Development, Jimmy Romines. From unraveling the mysteries of changing weather patterns to providing crucial time for communities to prepare for impending storms, radar technology is undeniably a game-changer in the meteorological world.

A c-band radar for La Plata County

“La Plata County covers about 1,700 square miles in southwest Colorado. Colorado’s combination of high elevation, midlatitude, and continental interior geography means the climate of local areas is profoundly affected by differences in elevation and the orientation of mountain ranges and valleys. The county has a population of about 55,640. Baron and La Plata’s Emergency Management team share a passion to ensure everyone stays safe,” he said.

Romaines mentioned it’s not just residents who are absorbed with enthusiasm.

“What’s been exciting about this project is the amount of public knowledge and support in the community.  When I contact subcontractors and engage with others, they typically already know about the weather radar and are excited to be able to help contribute in some way,” added Romines.

Baron People, Passion, and Professionalism

Now that construction will begin, he appreciates how Baron Program Manager for Radar Engineering, Kaitlin Thiesse, and the rest of the Baron team have pulled together.

“It’s been a pleasure to work with Baron; the entire team is professional, collaborative, and responsive,” said Stevens. “Kaitlin has set the standard for project management.”

Stevens sagely avoided the typical surprises some vendors might throw his way. Before embarking on the procurement process, La Plata County extensively searched for a new weather radar system and supplier. He and his team selected Baron based on their professional reputation.

“We have been extremely impressed by Baron’s level of service and technical solutions, and we have complete confidence in their ability to complete the project on time and on budget,” he said.