Hurricane Laura causes two Weather Service radars to go offline, one sustains heavy damage

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Two National Weather Service radar towers were knocked off the air by Hurricane Laura.

The tower in Ft. Polk, Louisiana, suffered a communications issue as a result of the storm, but appears to be undamaged.

However, the one about 70 miles away in Lake Charles was heavily damaged. Based on photos of the site, it appears almost the entire dome was ripped off along with much of the equipment inside of it.

The government agency uses a network of 155 radar towers across the 50 U.S. states as well as Guam and Puerto Rico. Imagery from these radars can be composited together to create a “mosaic” radar of the entire country.

Because the radar towers are government owned, mostly by the NWS or Department of Defense, the data from them is considered public domain and many TV stations across the country use one or more local towers in their forecasts, sometimes even giving the “network” of towers it uses a name that’s unique to the station.

In some markets, more than one station may tap into the same radar scans — either all the time or, in cases where stations own and operate their own towers or buy data from a private provider, rely on it for regional views that these scans can’t capture.