You really have to admire Senator Maria Cantwell. I can't think of another legislator who is so active in dealing with the key environmental challenges in our region.
Five years ago, she played a critical role in securing a radar for the Washington coast: the Langley Hill radar near Hoquiam that gave local meteorologists a view of incoming weather system from off the ocean and heavy precipitation over the coastal mountains (see example below). Forecasts have often been improved by this critical resource.
But there is another important weather radar gap in our region: along the eastern slopes of the Cascades of Washington and Oregon (see map). Over Washington, the nearest radars are at Spokane, Pendleton, Camano Is, and Portland....too far away to get crucial, low-level (below 10,000 ft coverage) east of the Cascade crest. Eastern Oregon is a complete disaster, as is the southern Oregon coast.
Radar coverage is particularly valuable along the eastern slopes of the Cascades since wildfires can spotted with weather radar and heavy convective showers can cause flash floods in that area. It would also be of substantial value to eastern-slope agricultural interests.
So it was with great pleasure that I learned this week that Senator Cantwell not only understands the importance of eastern-slope weather radars, but has added language to a bill that calls on the National Weather Service to complete a study of the impacts and costs of such radars. (Information here) This bill has now passed the Commerce Committee and has bipartisan support. For those who remember the process in securing the Langley Hill coastal radar, the first step was to do such a study.
Senator Cantwell is also one of the more perceptive legislators regarding the large wildfires we have had the last few years east of the Cascade crest. While some elected officials have been blaming the fires on global warming, Senator Cantwell has honed in on the real issue: the mismanagement of our forests during the past half century, including suppression of natural fires and a lack of thinning. After holding extensive hearings and the preparation of a white paper, Senator Cantwell is working on legislation that will return better management of our dryland forests.
While some politicians are paddling around oil platforms as kayaktivists, others like Senator Cantwell are doing the research and putting together planning to make our natural environment and our infrastructure more robust and resilient. You can imagine who I prefer.
And now something a little lighter. Well known local TV meteorologist, M. J. McDermott, has written a delightful holiday story called Frankenstein Meets Santa. Information here. May sound corny, but this book is a real fun read. Even has a meteorologist as part of the plot, which wins a a lot of points in my eyes.