Residents Don't want Doppler in Their Backyard


While stations love to tout out how much better their Doppler radar is better, there are residents in one Hartford neighborhood that would be happy to never see Doppler again.

In January, WFSB asked permission to install its Doppler weather radar system at the top of a 110-foot tall tower on  Avon Mountain. 

The residents on Avon Mountain faced with having it in their backyard are seeing it as a potential threat to their health.

The Hartford Courant writes that Timothy Hollister, an attorney for WFSB, said the building where the station's Doppler radar is now will be torn down this fall, necessitating a move. He said because of its elevation, WFSB officials think moving the radar equipment back to Avon Mountain would be ideal.

But some who live near where the radar would be are worried it could be bad for their health and are fighting WFSB's proposal.

At a hearing held by the planning and zoning commission on Feb. 18 and in written submissions to the commission, WFSB officials have said the station's Doppler radar is an important component of their weather forecasting. They said the technology gives early warnings of impending severe weather that can be important to alerting the public. WFSB officials said their Doppler system gave timely alerts to the tornado that struck Sturbridge, Mass, in 2010 and confirmed that tornadoes struck in Connecticut in 2013.

According to a report from WFSB, the Doppler radar emits an electromagnetic radiation that is regulated by the federal government because of its potential impact on people's health. That is what has residents worried, said Glenn Dowd, who lives near where the radar system would go

"It won't help anyone's health and it will have a clear impact on property values," Dowd said. "I'm concerned but pretty much anyone in the near vicinity should be concerned too. WFSB was asked at the hearing how often systems like this are plopped down in the middle of a fairly densely developed residential area and they didn't have an answer."

But WFSB insists that the Doppler radar will not hurt anyone. The station gave the commission a consultant's report saying the amount of radiation from the radar would be within the limits set by the federal government.

"At ground level, it is almost undetectable," Hollister said.

No action was taken on Feb. 18 and the report from WFSB's consultant will not be the final word on the matter.

Director of Planning Steven Kushner said in an interview that town zoning rules let the commission consider health and safety concerns when deciding if it will approve WFSB's proposal. He said the commission plans on hiring its own consultant to review the proposal and the potential impact of the radiation from the radar. Kushner said that a report from that consultant may be given to the commission on March 11.

Dowd said residents are still organizing their own efforts and it is highly likely that they will pool their resources to hire their own expert who would examine the radiation issue.

"I would expect a robust turnout at the March 11 meeting," Dowd said. "People are just becoming aware of this and they are deeply concerned."