The Doppler radar located in Blacksburg, Virginia was shut down August 1st for a nation wide project called the Service Life Extension Program, or SLEP.
The WSR-88D or NEXRAD radars were built with a service life of 20 years. The program started over 20 years ago and the purpose of the SLEP program is to bring the radar up to date with the newest technology. This upgrade would extend the life of the radar into the 2030s.
After installation of the new hardware and software, engineers ran test on the radar before placing it into operation and found a larger problem -- a cracked bearing on the main gear that moves the radar. The unit was immediately turned off.
To repair the bearing and the bull gear the entire dome and 28 foot radar dish will need to be removed. This will require a 6 person team and heavy equipment to make the repairs. The team is currently doing the same repair in Ohio and will make their way to Blacksburg next week. The work is schedule to be complete by August 30.
In the meantime, multiple radar sites can cover our area and will be unnoticeable to app or website users. The NWS can attempt to run the radar in a time of need is a tornadic storm or a tropical system were to impact the region before the engineering team starts the repair work.