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NSSL interior fire damageJuly 5, 2001 — Officials from NOAA's National Severe Storms Laboratory announced today preliminary estimated costs of $1.8 million to replace research equipment lost in a fire Tuesday. (Click NOAA image for larger view. Click here to see other images.)

The organization's leased equipment storage facility, known as the "Balloon Barn," was destroyed. Items lost include a new mobile radar, called a "SMART-Radar," a mobile laboratory, a mobile mesonet instrumented vehicle, a Ford Expedition, the entire tool and shop inventory, three atmospheric sounding systems and a large inventory of balloons and radiosondes. Many of these instruments are unique and often designed by NSSL scientists for specific uses. These tools have been vital to NSSL's research data collection and were scheduled to be used in a variety of research projects beginning as early as this fall.

NSSL interior fire damageThe SMART-Radar, a mobile C-Band radar mounted on a truck, was near completion and scheduled to be used to study tornadic thunderstorms, squall lines and hurricanes. A second SMART-Radar was not in the building and was not damaged. These instruments are being created by a coalition of researchers from NSSL, University of Oklahoma, Texas A&M and Texas Tech University.

In addition, equipment for a lightning mapping array that was scheduled to be installed in the next few weeks was destroyed. The unique system, created by engineers at New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology for NSSL researchers, was expected to provide 3-D lightning data over a portion of central Oklahoma and 2-D over most of the state. Preliminary research indicates the lightning data provided by this system could improve the quality of computer-based forecast models, ultimately improving forecasts. The cost to replace this system is estimated at more than $300,000.

"This fire is a major setback to our research and development efforts," said James F. Kimpel, NSSL director. "What we learn through our field campaigns—basic knowledge of storm structure, testing of new detection and measuring devices, and development of new forecasting techniques—will be significantly impacted."

The $1.8 million estimated replacement cost includes $1 million for general and ballooning equipment, including the lighting mapping array, five upper air sounding systems and vehicles; $54,000 for the mobile mesonet instruments; $303,000 for equipment such as computers, electronic test equipment; $272,000 for the SMART-Radar; and $150,000 for supplies, tools and furniture.

NSSL is a federal government agency and is self-insured.

Relevant Web Sites
NOAA's National Severe Storms Laboratory

NOAA Photos of Fire Damage

Media Contact:
Keli Tarp, NOAA's National Severe Storms Lab, Norman, Okla., (405) 366-0451