NOAA weather radio transmissions expand to Woodward and Altus

When the wind blows and storm clouds cover Oklahoma and North Texas, residents of the Woodward and Altus areas can now keep ahead of severe weather by tuning in to NOAA Weather Radio, a 24-hour source of weather forecasts and warnings provided by the National Weather Service (NWS), part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Two new 100 Watt transmitters have been installed in the Woodward and Altus communities and are already broadcasting information from the NWS Forecast Office in Norman, according to Dennis McCarthy, Meteorologist-in-Charge.

“A partnership among the National Weather Service, local officials and private businesses to install these transmitters will bring important weather information to residents in these two areas,” McCarthy said. “A NOAA Weather Radio is a useful and potentially life-saving tool.”

In and around Woodward, including Woodward, Harper, Woods, Dewey, Ellis and western Major counties, residents can tune in to 162.500 MHz. Service in Woodward began with a low-power transmitter at a temporary location early last year. The 100 Watt transmitter was installed on tower space furnished by Oklahoma Land Mobile Radio last fall. The transmitter was obtained and put into service by the Tri-State Amateur Radio Group, whose members will maintain the system. Additional support was provided by the Gage Chamber of Commerce.

The Altus transmitter, operating from space provided by the City of Altus, was furnished to the City by the Oklahoma Municipal Power Authority. Altus Emergency Manager Dwight Dennis directed the transmitter’s installation and will provide maintenance for the system. Operating at nearly 100 Watts, on a frequency of 162.425 MHz, the Altus transmitter will serve residents of Jackson, Harmon, Greer, Kiowa, and Tillman counties in Oklahoma, and Hardeman and Wilbarger counties in North Texas.

These two additions bring the total number of NOAA Weather Radio transmitters in western and central Oklahoma, and western sections of North Texas, to eight. A transmitter in Ponca City, operating on a frequency of 162.450 MHz, was the first in Oklahoma to be installed as the result of a public/private partnership. The other five transmitters programmed from the Norman Forecast Office were installed by the National Weather Service and have been in operation for many years, McCarthy said. They are located in Clinton, 162.475 MHz; Enid, 162.475 MHz; Lawton, 162.550 MHz; Oklahoma City, 162.400 MHz; and Wichita Falls, 162.475 MHz.

NOAA Weather Radio is “The Voice of the National Weather Service,” but in recent months the sound of the voice has changed. Automation, which allows NWS Forecast Offices to speed critical weather information from advanced workstations directly to the growing number of transmitters, makes use of a computer synthesized voice. This new technology eliminates many of the delays inherent in the older systems and allows simultaneous broadcasts on multiple transmitters when necessary. It also makes better use of other new technology such as Specific Area Message Encoding (SAME), which allows listeners to program specially equipped models to receive warning alarms for specific counties, and the Emergency Alert System (EAS), which brings critical warnings to commercial broadcasters faster than ever before.

The NOAA Weather Radio network has more than 480 stations, covering all 50 states, adjacent coastal waters, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and U.S. Pacific Territories. Weather radios come in many sizes, with a variety of functions and costs. Some receivers can automatically sound an alarm and turn themselves on if a severe weather warning is broadcast. Some are SAME-equipped. Most NOAA Weather Radio receivers are either battery-operated portables or AC-powered desktop models with battery backup. Some scanners, HAM radios, CB radios, short wave receivers, and AM/FM radios also are capable of receiving NOAA Weather Radio transmissions. Weather radios can be purchased at many electronics stores.