Hennepin County Expands Severe Weather Stations
When the skies get angry and turbulent, Hennepin County wants people to get information at warp speed. It’s why the county is expanding its network of weather stations that track severe weather.
The stations, called Hennepin-West Mesonet, are placed five miles apart in the west metro. The county calls the stations “ground truth” because of the information they provide. County emergency management officials believes they’re immensely important because of the dense population they’re trying to protect.
“We don’t have the warning time that other people have, other counties have, where a storm’s going to roll through a corn field, or a forest, or a grassland,” said Eric Waage, director of Hennepin County Emergency Management.
Waage added, “In Hennepin County if a storm forms and we start getting violent weather, it’s impacting people right away. So every minute counts in a warning.”
Severe Weather Stations like a “Gigantic Swiss Army Knife”
The 30-foot weather towers are like a gigantic Swiss army knife. The stations have a lightning detector, measure wind speed, record air and soil temperatures and have a rain gauge.
“They give us immediate up-to-the-minute data. We have meteorologists here that interpret those,” said Waage.
Waage says the stations worked for the flooding event in 2016 in Maple Grove and Brooklyn Park.
“We were able to see that evolving and the Weather Service issued a flash flood emergency based on that data,” said Waage.
Hennepin County currently has 14 stations and hopes to expand to 30 stations. The severe weather stations are modeled after similar projects in New York and Oklahoma.