Jefferson County airport in Port Townsend to get own weather station

By Charlie Bermant
Peninsula Daily News

PORT TOWNSEND — A new atmospheric detection system at Jefferson County International Airport could be operational as soon as Nov. 1, the Port of Port Townsend executive director said.

“This is like hooking up a new computer,” Larry Crockett said of the $308,000 Automated Weather Observation Station (AWOS), which will broadcast local weather data.

“They come in here, hook it up, run the software and test it, and it’s ready to go.”

When installed, the AWOS system will provide real-time data to the National Weather Service and provide more accurate information about local weather conditions to commercial outlets such as the Internet, radio and TV.

It also will transmit detailed weather conditions to pilots who can determine whether to land or route the flight to a nearby airport.

Currently, the data used are not real-time but are based on data from other areas and computer modeling, according to Port Deputy Director Jim Pivarnik.

Port commissioners Wednesday night approved two contracts in preparation for the installation of the system: one for $81,582 to All Weather Systems for equipment and another for $108,368 to Christensen Construction for the installation of towers, dirt work, electrical lines and foundations.

An additional $118,000 will be needed to pull the system together, including digging a 500-foot trench to carry power to the middle of the runway at the airport 6 miles south of Port Townsend.

Contracts must be approved by the Federal Aviation Administration, which will pay for 90 percent of the project.

Another 5 percent will come from the Aviation Division of the state Department of Transportation.

The port’s out-of-pocket costs will be $15,412.

Regional airports with working AWOS systems are in Port Angeles, Bremerton, Shelton and on Whidbey Island, Crockett said.

Port officials initially expected it would take several months to get Federal Communications Commission license approval, but this has changed.

“We started that process early and expect to have the permit in hand when we finish construction,” Crockett said.

According to consultant Bill Putney, one of the advantages of the AWOS system is that an emergency flight crew from Harborview Medical Center in Seattle will be able to know at takeoff whether they should land at the airport or on the helipad at Jefferson Healthcare hospital.

Putney said the presence of local weather data on news channels and weather websites would act as an advertisement for the area.

“When we are on the TV weather maps, it will be like having a banner ad for Port Townsend every night,” Putney said in April.

“People will come here for the weekend because they’ll see that the weather here isn’t as miserable as everywhere else.”

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Jefferson County Editor Charlie Bermant can be reached at 360-385-2335 or at cbermant@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: August 28. 2014 6:42PM
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