UCAR > Communications > UCAR Quarterly > Summer 2001 Search


Summer 2001

NSSL facility hit by fire

Damage from the NSSL fire. (Photo courtesy NSSL.)

A fire on 3 July at a storage facility leased by the National Severe Storms Laboratory caused an estimated $1.8 million in damage. Known as the "balloon barn," the building is located about a mile northeast of NSSL's main headquarters in Norman, Oklahoma. Items destroyed or severely damaged by the fire include one of two next-generation mobile Doppler radars, three atmospheric sounding systems, all of the lab's mobile mesonet roof racks, and many balloons and radiosondes. Also destroyed was NSSL's newest mobile laboratory and a new lightning mapping array, built by the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology, that was to be deployed across Oklahoma later this year. As a federal laboratory, NSSL is self-insured. No cause for the fire had been determined at press time.

"This fire is a major setback to our research and development efforts," says NSSL director James Kimpel. "What we learn through our field campaigns—basic knowledge of storm structure, testing of new detection and measuring devices, and development of new forecasting techniques—will be significantly impacted."

Michael Biggerstaff (Texas A&M University) says the research community is already responding to the loss. Texas A&M has been collaborating with NSSL, Texas Tech University, and the University of Oklahoma (OU) on the Shared Mobile Atmospheric Research and Teaching radar project. The two mobile C-band Doppler radars were scheduled to debut at NASA's fourth Convection and Moisture Experiment (CAMEX-4). To stand in for the SMART-Radar taken out by the fire, John Gerlach (NASA Wallops) has offered a stationary C- band Doppler radar used in the Tropical Oceans and Global Atmosphere project. Other offers of help with radar backup have come from Emmanouil Anagnostou (University of Connecticut) and Joshua Wurman (OU). "It's this kind of community spirit and support that will see the [SMART-Radar] coalition through during the short term," says Biggerstaff. "Given the fiercely competitive nature of research, it's especially refreshing to find offers of assistance from colleagues at other institutions." Since key parts of the damaged radar were off the truck during the fire, he adds, "it could have been much worse."


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UCAR > Communications > UCAR Quarterly > Summer 2001 Search

Edited by Bob Henson, bhenson@ucar.edu
Prepared for the Web by Jacque Marshall
Last revised: Wed Aug 8 17:05:07 MDT 2001