Fixing the 'hole' in Charlotte's weather radar
The Charlotte area does not have a dedicated National Weather Service radar unit. The nearest one is in Greer, South Carolina almost 100 miles away. That’s led to long-running concern over whether Charlotte is at risk of having too little warning before storms because of inadequate radar coverage. Now one TV station is trying to fill in that radar gap. That’s according to the Charlotte Ledger Business Newsletter. For more, WFAE's Woody Cain talks to the Ledger’s Tony Mecia.
Woody Cain: Tony, why has it taken so long for a metro area the size of Charlotte to get its own radar unit?
Tony Mecia: Yeah, Woody, it does seem sort of puzzling, right? I mean, we like to think that in Charlotte, we should have access to everything that every other big city has. But this is a decision that went back decades ago when the federal government decided where to put these radar units. They didn't put one in Charlotte. They put one in Greer outside of Greenville, Spartanburg. And maybe that was fine for the time. And a lot of it, I think, had to do with the Defense Department. They tried to spread them out all over the country. There were some military applications as far as detecting potential hostile aircraft, but that sort of thing. But going back to the Cold War.
But nowadays, with the technology being what it is, local meteorologists at these TV stations here locally are saying that there's a gap in the radar, that it's not able to see some of these tornadoes that are developing at lower altitudes. And so that's leading to a lot of concerns that people might not be able to be adequately warned if there are tornadoes coming in. What's happening is WBTV actually has contracted with a private company, putting in a radar in Lincoln County to kind of help address this, although there are some differing opinions on whether that's going to be adequate or not.
Cain: Now you report that there is some disagreement among local meteorologists on whether this new radar will be adequate enough. Why is that?
Mecia: Well, the technology that the National Weather Service uses off of their radar in the Greenville, Spartanburg area, it is considered to be a little superior in the sense that it can see through rain and it can see through other weather phenomenon. The one that WBTV is putting in is a different kind of technology that can sometimes get obscured by heavy rain. And so while meteorologists say it is an improvement, it's not necessarily a solution. And the government that study these things a couple of years ago and said it thinks that the coverage is adequate for Charlotte and that Charlotte's really no different than a lot of other places that don't have the same kind of coverage.
Cain: Alright well let’s stay in the atmosphere for a moment. Charlotte’s largest carrier, American Airlines, this week announced it’s ordered 20 jets that will fly at twice the speed of sound. So when can I expect to ride one of these out of Charlotte?
Mecia: Yeah. You know, I asked that same question of American Airlines and they said it's way too premature to have any kind of answer on that, given that these planes aren't even supposed to be ready until 2029. And even then, some analysts think that's a little bit too ambitious of a timeline. It's hard to know. I mean, they could cut the flight time in half. Yeah. Some of the routes that they suggested were potentially Los Angeles to Honolulu or Miami to London.
But, you know, we're going to have to see how that shakes out. I guess the joke Woody would be that, you know, if we're concerned about flight delays, you know, this maybe solves that problem. You know, no problem with a flight being delayed a couple of hours if your flight takes half as much time.
Cain: Alright switching gears now. The iconic North Carolina-based restaurant chain K&W Cafeteria has been sold to another cafeteria-style chain, Piccadilly. What can you tell us?
Mecia: Yeah, a lot of people will be familiar with K& W Cafeteria. You know, long time North Carolina chain founded in 1937 in Winston-Salem. Family-owned. They used to have several dozen of these across North Carolina, including some in the Charlotte area. There was one in Pineville that closed last year. There's still one in Concord. They now run 11 cafeterias, bought out by Picadilly, which is based in Louisiana.
K&W cafeteria had run into some problems. Filed for bankruptcy right after COVID. You might recall cafeteria businesses were hit particularly hard because of COVID senior citizen, customer base concerns about food safety and people serving from a common dish, that sort of thing. So really hard times, I think, for cafeteria restaurants. And so that's why you're seeing them sell.
Cain: Last week Tony, you had a piece last week on how the Monroe Road corridor is attracting new businesses that have been displaced from elsewhere and we got word yesterday that they may have some company soon. What can you tell us?
Mecia: Yeah, Charlotte FC announced this. It's moving its headquarters and its training facility to the McAlpine area. Across the street, people will know McAlpine Park. Perhaps it's in the Monroe Road corridor there, and it's I think it'll be a boost for that area. We had a piece, as you mentioned last week that looked at businesses moving there because it's considered to be more affordable if they get priced out of Plaza Midwood or NoDa to say they're finding it to be more affordable. They're on the railroad now. I'm not sure that's the motivating factor with David Tepper. But, you know, it's certainly seen as an up-and-coming area that's attracting a lot of businesses and it should be a little bit of a boon.
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