Pantex keeping an eye to the Sky(Cams)

  • Posted: Monday, June 6, 2022, 4:29 pm

Childress ISD

Due to the nature of the work done at Pantex, severe weather, especially area lightning strikes, will halt production. To monitor weather conditions, Pantex subscribes to two lightning-detection networks for cloud-to-cloud and cloud-to-ground strikes.

One of those lightning-detection networks is Earth Networks, which has lightning-detection systems located all over the United States. Pantex added additional lightning-detection sensors that include weather stations to the four corners of the Texas Panhandle. The cities of Texline (northwest), Follett (northeast), Friona (southwest), and Childress (southeast) were selected to meet that need.

These four new weather stations update every 30 seconds, and new photos from an HD SkyCam are updated every 15 minutes to a webpage that local schools can embed on their websites. The weather data can be used by the students and teachers at the respective schools to teach lessons such as basic meteorology, mathematical skills, and of course, earth science. It can also be a vital component in the schools’ use of STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) in the classroom.

“I looked into these weather stations, the equipment they use, the range of the lightning-detection sensors, and how easy they are to deploy and use. I found that the equipment used is identical to the 250+ SchoolNet sites that I installed more than 20 years ago at a local TV station,” said Pantex Meteorologist Steve Kersh. “When we contacted the superintendents of the four schools to see if they were interested in helping us, they jumped at the idea, and it was approved quickly. I see this as a way to promote Pantex, to increase the sensitivity and reliability of the lightning network, and to give the schools a way to teach their students about the weather, math, and science.”

Kersh and Electromagnetics employee Wayne Blodgett visited each site and got the new equipment installed and working perfectly. The equipment is placed on top of the schools with the SkyCam pointed toward the horizon.

In Texline, Superintendent Terrell Jones was excited about the new weather station and sent Kersh an email once it was up and running. “I love the new station,” he said. “It is instant and has lots of very good information.”

The Texas Panhandle covers approximately 25,600 square miles (more than the state of West Virginia with 24,230 square miles), and weather conditions across that large an area can vary greatly. Pinpointing weather to one small area is very beneficial to people in that location. And that’s why Pantex allows public access to these sites as anyone with an internet connection can monitor local weather. There have already been reports that farmers and ranchers are using the local data to assist them with their livestock, along with preparing and maintaining crops.

Finally, it helps Pantex and many area students interested in STEM. By expanding the number of lightning sensors, and in turn, the stations, the effectiveness, range, and quality of the lightning data monitored and reported continues to increase. Going forward, all eyes are on the SkyCams and the possibility of adding more sites to gather weather data.

Check out the websites below.

Follett sunrise