Sunday, April 15, 2007

Blue Ridge Landfill Expansion Would Block Doppler Weather Radar

Only in Texas will you find local TV stations opposing expansion of a landfill because it will block with their Doppler weather radar.

FortBendNow has a great article on this. I have my usual takes below.

First, landfill is a misnomer on the Texas coastal plain. It’s flat as a pancake here with a one foot per mile drop to sea level in any given place. So there are no holes to fill with trash and bury it.

The Blue Ridge trash heap is permitted right now to a height of 58 feet, just below the 60-foot height of local TV stations’ radar tower. The radar works fine at the moment and is useful in spotting “rotation” as they say here.

That is, spotting tornadoes.

Spotting and warning the local population about severe and extreme weather is one of the great public services of local TV stations here in tornado-prone Texas. The plan to increase the height of the Blue Ridge garbage heap to 170 feet, a heap that would be positioned less than 3 miles southeast of the Doppler radar tower, would effectively block the signal to tornado-prone areas of the greater southern Houston area, with towns and cities of Manvel, Alvin, Texas City, La Marque and Galveston in a “radar shadow”.

Yes, the towers can be raised, but they must be very sturdy and able to withstand high winds. Costly, I mean. Raising a tower high enough to get its signal over the trash heap will also mean getting FAA approvals. And I wonder who will have to pay for all of this? Certainly not the TV stations. They’re not the ones who are “blocking the view” of Doppler radar.

Ironic isn’t it? There are all sorts of reasons not to permit the existence of a 17-story trash heap. Barium. Property values. Stench. Health and safety. But the one that will probably kill or severely restrict this expansion proposal is one being brought up by KHOU, KRIV and KTRK. It will prevent them from performing a vital public service. If I were living in Alvin right now, I would be calling around asking about what Fort Bend County Commissioner was in favor of putting my family in danger of loss of life because no tornado warning could be issued to save them.

And doing something about it.
UPDATE (4/16/07): This from Congressman Nick Lampson.

Lampson Voices Concerns Regarding Blueridge Landfill Higher Landfills May Interfere with Local Stations' Weather Radars

STAFFORD, TX - Congressman Nick Lampson (D-Stafford) today released the following statement on Fort Bend's Blueridge Landfill requesting a permit to increase the landfill height to 170 feet:

"As Chairman of the Subcommittee on Energy & Environment, I am concerned about the request submitted by Blueridge Landfill. If the height permitted is increased, several television weather towers will have their signals disrupted. These towers help warn millions of residents in Houston and surrounding cities of possible inclement or even dangerous weather, such as hurricanes. With the upcoming hurricane season, all weather and transmission towers are needed to make sure all storms are accurately tracked.

"I will continue to monitor this situation and advocate a resolution for the interests of all parties involved."

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