‘Storm Tracker 3 Everywhere’ helping to keep your family safe

Our mission in the KSN Storm Tracker 3 Weather Center is to keep you safe when threatening weather approaches. KSN is taking you behind the scenes to look at the new system that is the most powerful in Kansas. It has the tools to inform you and your family.

What makes the new weather system different?

When severe moves into Kansas, you need the most precise information to be able to keep your family safe. That is what the new system provides. It offers unparalleled speed, gathering more accurate data so that you can get the information you need to stay safe. The KSN Storm Tracker 3 Weather Center now has tools to see a more clear radar, and with new touch screen technology, the information is literally at our fingertips.

Tracking the innovation

One of the most exciting pieces of innovation the KSN Storm Tracker 3 Weather Center is able to demonstrate is the new Snow Tracker. It will give viewers a more precise winter forecast.

KSN Meterologist Leon Smitherman traveled to Huntsville, Alabama to talk with Steve Bray, Baron’s Director of Broadcast Meteterology, about how serious winter forecasting is.

“You get the ice, you get the snow and sometimes a quarter-inch of ice can be more tragic than a quarter-inch of snow,” said Bray.

Accuracy and speed, those are two of the most important terms in a forecaster’s vocabulary. What it means to you, the viewer, is to know just how much snow will greet you when you step out the door. As winter storms approach, the KSN Storm Tracker 3 Weather Center can use the best tools to track the snow right to your shovel.

“So, supercomputers that are located here are able to crunch out these models at a much faster rate, so you are getting these models multiple times a day rather than just once a day,” said Bray.

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KSN Meteorologist Leon Smitherman works on one of the new computers in the Storm Tracker 3 Weather Center (KSN Photo)

There are thousands of radars across the country including six in and around Kansas. All of that data is sent to the Baron computers where it is collected and sent back to KSN. All of that information is then analyzed. KSN now has computers that can process four terabytes of data a day. To put that in perspective, it is like downloading 66,000 songs per day onto your phone. What does that all mean for viewers? It means more information to work with.

“With radars, we could always see where the precipitation was and how heavy it was, then we moved into Doppler radar to which we could see which way raindrops were moving. Dual-Pole changes everything,” added Bray.

Dual-Pole radar is new technology. It allows meteorologists the ability to take a three-dimensional look inside the storm. It allows better detection for snow, rain, and ice. It also has the ability to bring that forecast down to the neighborhood level.

“We can look at the radar data and decide there has been five inches there because the data is just that much more accurate now,” said Bray.

Dual-Pole radar and snow tracking

Dual-Pole, or Dual-Polarization, radar gives KSN meteorologists a look inside the storm. Think of it like going from your grandfather’s old black and white console television to a brand new, high-definition 3D television. Traditional radar has a hard time telling the difference between rain and snow. Because of the way it works, Dual-Pole radar helps solve that problem.

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Think of it this way. If you’re looking at a basketball and a Frisbee from one direction, they look pretty similar, but once you look at both of them from another vantage point, their differences becomes clear. You can clearly see the two different shapes.

The same goes for the kind of precipitation inside a winter storm. Rain, like the basketball, has a rounder shape, but snowflakes, like the Frisbee, look much different when you can see them from a different view. With Dual-Pole radar, we can now look directly into the storm to see what kind of precipitation is heading your way.

Dual-Pole radar and severe weather

Dual-Pole radar gives KSN even more tools to see inside storms that may have tornadoes, hail, and straight-line wind.

First the radar beam is sent out and bounces off objects like rain drops. The more energy that is reflected back to the radar, the heavier the rain. Because hail is a ball of ice, coated with water, it is a very good reflector of that radar beam. Think of it like a disco ball reflecting a spotlight — a lot more energy comes back to the radar.

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Dual-Pole radar takes those images and helps meteorologists to see the shape and that information is used to determine what is falling and how big it is.

Dual-Pole radar is also immensely helpful when a tornado is on the ground. When a tornado causes damage, it lifts debris up into the storm. The Dual-Pole spots the debris on the radar because it is larger and has very different shapes.

Storm Tracker 3 Everywhere App

iPhone-splashThe Storm Tracker 3 Everywhere Weather App is unlike any weather app we have had in Kansas before. An arsenal of computers and technology in the KSN Storm Tracker 3 Weather Center helps bring the technology into your pocket.

KSN can give you customized alerts, set up for your work, home, business and even grandma’s house. It can also be set up to alert you to everything from severe thunderstorms to lightning in your area. It is a great tool to have on the football or soccer field.

The app provides access to an incredibly precise radar that goes right down to the street level to see when the rain or snow is going to hit your home.

How to get the Storm Tracker 3 Everywhere App?

For iPhone / iPad users: The new app is an update to the previous Storm Tracker 3 app. Click this link to download.

For Android users: The new app is a different app. You will want to uninstall the old Storm Tracker 3 app and download the new one at this link.

Note: To get personalized alerts, you MUST TURN ON the Safety Net Alerts!

How do I get the safety net alerts?

To get the alerts, you must have the app. When you open the app, click on the menu in the top part of the screen. When it pops up, click on Safety Net Alerts. When you first download the app, the screen will show that alerts are disabled. Make sure you enable alerts. Then at the bottom of the screen, click to allow Messages from Trained Personnel.

Geo-fencing focuses on your personal safety

The KSN Storm Tracker 3 Everywhere Weather App pinpoints who is in the line of an approaching storm, and it can send an alert straight to your phone. It is called geo-fencing.

KSN can draw a circle or a “fence” on a map around the area that will be impacted and send an alert to everyone within that area that has the KSN Storm Tracker 3 Everywhere App. The alert won’t trigger for those on the other side of the county or a community across the state.

What does geo-fencing mean?

Geo-fencing alerts can reach literally thousands of people who have a specific weather need. For instance take the Wichita Riverfest, which draws thousands to downtown in late spring.

“It is a June to May operation, and we try to put together the best plans we can for entertainment, logistics but also safety and security,” said Mary Beth Jarvis, Wichita Festivals Inc. “During the parade, during our big concerts, leading up to the finale fireworks, we can have huge crowds up there, up to 35,000 or 45,000 people.

But no matter the planning, no group can make mother nature cooperate.

“Any outdoor event in this area has got to plan for a lot of weather contingency.”

When weather does turn, finding out as soon as possible helps organizers keep people safe.

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KSN can draw a circle or a “fence” on a map around the area that will be impacted and send an alert to everyone within that area. (KSN Photo)

“We’ve really faced every weather scenario, we’ve had weather that looked threatening but really wasn’t. We’ve had weather that popped up quickly, and we needed to get people evacuated or to safety. So in all of those instances the best thing we’ve got at our fingertips is good information.”

That’s where the geo-fencing part of the KSN Storm Tracker 3 Everywhere Weather App comes into play.

When KSN meteorologists see weather that could impact a large outdoor event like the Riverfest, KSN can pinpoint an alert to notify only the people in that area.

“It’s hugely valuable to turn general information about a region’s forecast into really targeted information about where exactly we have all those people gathered”

It is that kind of specific alert that you can’t find anywhere else in Kansas.

“So how far away? Is it coming here? Is it going to miss us by a bit? [That’s] crucial to know as we plan ahead, and then and as we work to keep people safe and secure throughout an event.”

Thank you

When it comes to weather, it’s a personal need. We want to know if it’s going to rain at the football game or affect our daily drive. We want to know if the kids will need an extra sweater for recess. And when your family’s safety is on the line, you need the information now to protect your loved ones.

All of our new systems help you to take care of your family.

Thanks for letting us share this exciting new technology with you to show you how our new weather tools can help you keep aware and informed to help protect your family.

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