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TV station offers free use of Doppler radar

WTVT-Ch. 13 has offered the National Weather Service free use of its Skytower radar to warn Tampa Bay of severe weather like the tornadoes that struck Oct. 3.

The station did not broadcast warnings of the tornadoes, but a station spokesman said that's because Channel 13 does not monitor its radar in order to issue warnings _ a task that by federal law belongs to the National Weather Service.

The weather service is considering Channel 13's offer and may make a decision by next week, said Ed Gross, chief of the service's industrial meteorology staff. The weather service in Ruskin uses equipment designed in 1957 and is not scheduled to receive Doppler equipment until 1995.

Channel 13 spokesman Artie Scheff said the station would offer a computer link so that weather service forecasters could monitor the Tampa-based radar from Ruskin.

Scheff said WTVT's weather staff is responsible for broadcasting weather reports and supplying reports to private industry clients, and doesn't have time for the kind of constant surveillance performed by the weather service. Although the staff saw and reported that weather conditions were favorable for tornadoes, no reports were given before they touched ground.

"What we look for is very different from what the National Weather Service looks for," Scheff said. "They can be staffed solely to look at a monitor all day to see if storms are surfacing and to issue warnings, which we can't do."

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