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Santa Claus will be able to fly into the Black Hills unobserved by radar this Christmas, as the National Weather Service out of Rapid City has to take down its Doppler Radar for a major hardware upgrade.

"The work was scheduled to reduce the impact on our forecasts," Rapid City Meteorologist-in-Charge David Hintz said Thursday. "This time of year we typically don't have many storms, and our forecasters can monitor winter storms with satellite and ground station data, whereas radar is the primary tool we use for thunderstorms."

Plus, locals won't lose access to a radar forecast. Images from Bismarck, Aberdeen, North Platte and Cheyenne will populate the National Weather Service radars found at https://radar.weather.gov/

Technicians will take three weeks to replace the pedestal, a stand that rotates and positions the antenna. After the antenna is dissembled, a crane will remove the radar dome and pedestal. A new pedestal will be lifted onto the deck, and then the dome will be replaced and the antenna reassembled.

The new device is designed to last 25 years. The current Rapid City radar was installed in 1995.

The radar is the latest, major project as part of NEXRAD (next generation radar) improvements through the National Weather Service, housed within the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. These upgrades will keep the nation's radars viable into the 2030s, said a news release from the weather service in Rapid City.

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Contact Christopher Vondracek at Christopher.Vondracek@rapidcityjournal.com.

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