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La Plata County contractor breaks ground on weather radar tower

New system expected online this year
James Romines, chief engineer of radar systems with Baron Weather, says the company broke ground on the La Plata County radar system at the Durango-La Plata County Airport Monday. (Courtesy of La Plata County)

James Romines has had some trouble figuring out whether this weekend’s storms will impact his ability to pour concrete.

The weather forecasts in La Plata County are notoriously ill-informed, given the lack of weather radar in the area.

But that will soon change; the concrete Romines needs to pour will be the foundation of a weather radar tower located at the Durango-La Plata County Airport.

“I was looking at forecasts and stuff (trying to find out) where is it gonna snow and there's not a whole lot out there,” said Romines, who is the chief engineer of radar systems for Baron Weather.

La Plata County approved a contract with Baron for the purchase and installation of a radar weather system in December 2022.

The company broke ground Monday and began excavation. Romines hopes to pour the foundation this upcoming Tuesday or Wednesday. At that point, he said, the company must wait for approval of a permit from the Federal Communications Commission for the construction of the tower.

Although construction is ready to commence, it could be several more months before the permit is approved, Romines warned. He hopes to complete the project sometime this spring or summer.

The region currently sits in a dark zone for weather forecasters, who rely on data from the closest radar system in Grand Junction. Given the straight trajectory of the radar frequencies, the curvature of the earth becomes an obstacle. The radar cannot see weather systems that move in below about 28,000 feet, which includes most snowstorms.

Baron Weather will install a 90-foot tall tower at the Durango-La Plata County Airport atop which will sit the new radar system purchased by the county. (Courtesy of Baron Weather)

The new radar will have an approximate accurate range of 200 to 250 kilometers, Vice President of integrated weather systems at Baron Weather Jon Tarleton said in an interview when the contract was first approved.

La Plata County Commissioners approved a contract with Baron for expenses up to $2,508,152.62, of which $1.7 million is covered by a grant from the Colorado Department of Local Affairs.

Although the project may not be completed, the county will spend the grant funding by the March 15 deadline.

“Obviously we’re very happy that physical work on the site has begun,” County Spokesman Ted Holteen said. “We certainly thank Baron for moving ahead through the many obstacles and it sounds like we’re on track to have working weather radar in 2024.”


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