DICKINSON, Texas (KIAH) — Across the street from the National Weather Service office in Dickinson, you will find this large floating sphere lifted in the sky.

Many confuse it with a water tower, but this is our weather radar, a tool that I use daily as a meteorologist, and a savior of many lives.   

My good friends at the NWS office for Houston and Galveston invited me down for an exclusive look, inside the radome. I am joined by Richard Businger and Bert Gorden, radar technicians for a trip up into the dome!

“You are the first TV meteorologist to go up here,” Rich Tells me. 

The trek up, these stairs only happens a few times a year for maintenance and repairs, so this is a rare opportunity that I was not going to pass on. These two men travel inside the radome four to five times a year, always on nice days like today.  

“With the exception of having to check on a few things during a tropical storm!”, Rich adds.  

Radars send out electromagnetic waves similar to cell phone towers. Signals are sent out as short pulses that are then reflected back to the radar by objects in their path. Think of this concept as hearing your echo.  

This light bulb looking structure is where the radar beam originates. A pulse is sent outward, then reflected back, and funneled to the center of the curve. 

Feedback to the radar can be caused by rain, hail, debris, birds, and even traffic from I-45. Anything non-meteorological is considered “clutter” and aids in the reasoning behind lifting the radar high above the ground.  

Proper radar upkeep, such as cleaning the slipperings and greasing the elevation housing, are a must to get accurate weather data.

Rich and Kent agree that it is best to take advantage of nice weather days to work on the radar, that way there is no time constraint of upcoming storms or the threat for lightning, if there is lightning with 25 miles, Rich and Bert say they will not be going up.