DES MOINES — Weather radar coverage in Iowa will take a hit next month while the National Weather Service in Des Moines undergoes refurbishments. The timing, officials said, works well.

The Des Moines radar is the most important site for Ottumwa. While other radars do cover southeast Iowa, that’s the closest location. Proximity matters for radar because it is line-of-sight. Areas close to the radar can have coverage down to very low levels. But, because the earth curves, radar signals are blocked from low levels at greater distances.

If you’re talking about a line of showers or most snowstorms, the difference doesn’t matter a great deal. But when severe storms are involved, it is important to get details as close to the ground as possible. That’s part of why Jeff Johnson, the meteorologist in charge at the Des Moines office, is happy to see this work done in December. Severe storms are much less likely at this time of year.

“We kind of lucked out there,” he said.

Johnson said the work will begin Dec. 2, and the Des Moines radar will be offline for about two weeks. The radar’s pedestal is the focus for this work. Refurbishments require the radome and other equipment to be moved off while the pedestal is upgraded.

Ottumwans shouldn’t be too worried, though. Radar from the Quad Cities still covers the area.

“We have a lot of redundancies in the system,” Johnson said. “That will adequately cover the area.”

Similar work was recently done in Omaha. The work will help ensure the Des Moines radar, which Johnson said was installed in late 1993 or early 1994, will last into the 2030s.

Matt Milner can be reached at mmilner@ottumwacourier.com and followed on Twitter @mwmilner

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