On the heels of the first snowfall of the season in southern Saskatchewan, the radar system that tracks severe weather for the area has been shut down for scheduled maintenance.
Environment Canada’s website listed the Bethune radar station as being shut down for scheduled maintenance for two weeks starting on Tuesday.
John Paul Craig is the regional severe weather specialist for Environment Canada in Saskatchewan. He says Environment Canada kept the radar station running until Wednesday morning to ensure coverage during the storm that brought a light layer of snow.
Bethune radar will be shut down for the next two weeks, so what happens if there is a serious snowstorm in that time?
Craig says six other radar stations provide overlapping coverage to south Saskatchewan including: the Radisson station near Saskatoon, the Foxwarren station near Brandon, MB, the Schuler station near Medicine Hat, AB, plus three radar stations in the U.S. including: Bismark North Dakota, Minot, ND, and Glasgow, Montana.
“It’s pretty close to full coverage, you’re just missing a little bit of information,” Craig said. “The farther the precipitation is from the radar, the less accurate the data, but most of the data is filled in for the area and we can see most of what’s going on.”
So why would Environment Canada schedule maintenance on a radar station at the beginning of winter? Craig says it’s actually better to do this in the winter because it’s easier to track large winter storms than severe summer storms.
“In the summer you’ve got small little mezzo-scale systems developing and they’re harder to see, harder to pin-point, harder to know where they’re going to develop. Whereas, these big synoptic storms that happen in the winter are much larger. You can them coming for a lot longer time period.”
Craig says it is easier to deal with maintenance shut downs in the winter than it is in summer storm season.