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Storm Hawk gives field crews new view of storms

A new device that relies on GPS positioning data lets ENG crews precisely track and report on severe storms from the field with unprecedented accuracy.

A new handheld device that relies on GPS position data, up-to-the-moment National Weather Service data, wireless transmission, and a built-in video camera promises to transform how severe weather is reported from the field.

The Storm Hawk, from WeatherData in Wichita, KS, gives crews in the field, via GPS positioning data, a precise fix on where they are in relationship to lightning, wind, hail and other weather conditions. The device plots the National Weather Service’s local storm report on screen minute-by-minute. That’s a major boon for crews unsure about the safety of raising an ENG mast during a thunderstorm or of their setup position when covering a tornado or hurricane.

The device also allows stations to maximize their weather field reporting assets in a relatively low-cost way. Stations can equip emergency workers and storm spotters with the device. Together with ENG crews, those field assets can build a highly accurate graphical depiction of weather conditions, storm paths and danger zones. Data from the Storm Hawk is fed to a central system at the station that automatically assembles the composite storm description with specialized algorithms.

The Storm Hawk also has a built-in video camera that can capture still images and short video clips that can be transmitted via a cell phone back to the station along with field-gathered weather data to show, for instance, that a storm has knocked down power lines at a specific intersection. Such wireless transmission can even penetrate hurricanes, something that’s just not possible with point-to-point microwave or SNG.

A handful of stations have begun using the new device. KMBC-TV in Kansas City, MO, recently tracked a severe hail storm down to street level while training with the system. WCAU-TV in Philadelphia used it during a recent snow storm. It was even used during Hurricane Charley to penetrate the storm.

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