The city expects the new weather tracking system will save the city money, and help protect its people and their property by giving them faster, more accurate warnings. Plus it can help to ease traffic congestion and reduce car accidents caused by big storms.
For example, if weather conditions look ominous enough, city crews can be deployed before disaster strikes. They could be ready to plow snow, clear storm drains and better control pumping stations. Emergency crews could be given more notice, and better insight as to which neighborhoods need help first.
Bad weather costs the city millions every year, and sometimes storms can be deadly. For example, in December 2006, a woman drowned in her basement from a surge of floodwater. This storm alone resulted in over 300 damage claims, and cost the city $3.2 million.
The tracking system uses one-of-a-kind weather forecasting technology. It has three separate systems to monitor rain, snow and wind conditions. SnowWatch was launched in test mode last month in Seattle. The RainWatch and WindWatch programs have been operating in test mode for over a year, and officially start operating in the city today.
This new type of storm tracking system combines a range of weather data with computer programs to measure, calculate and predict snow, rain and winds. The program combines weather information from radar and satellites with a variety of other measurements, including 17 rain gauges across the city, said James Rufo Hill, a meteorologist and climate-adaptation specialist for Seattle Public Utilities.
The storm tracking system was designed to send automatic email alerts to city officials and meteorologists under certain conditions, such as when wind speeds reach 30 mph.