NEXRAD on Coles Knob Gets a Bath

Wonder how this work is described in these guys' resumes?

What the heck, I thought Thursday morning as I headed off for errands in town. Might as well toss the camera bag in with the recycling and give it a ride. Most of the time when I do this,  the Nikon never comes out of its case. I see shots worth keeping, but hardly ever is it possible to pull off the road to squeeze the shutter.

But as I turned onto Coles Knob Road, I could clearly see a shot that looked interesting, and knew I’d have no problems (including no barking dogs) to pull off and shoot through the window of the car.

I’m not sure it was only the north side of the FCX (Floyd County?) NEXRAD radar ball (radome) that was getting a cleaning, but that’s where they were when this shot was taken. My thinking is that the Great Soccer Ball was getting the mold and algae cleaned, to bring it back from gray-green to white. And I’m betting it was for more than cosmetic reasons.

Here’s what NEXRAD is all about.

This is sort of specialized work. I wondered if these same folks seen here go from one to another of the 158 huge golf balls across the country to do this kind of work. Somebody’s gotta do it.

Apparently, there’s more to this kind of facility than meets the eye from a quarter mile away. Here’s a pictorial tour of one in Colorado, I’m assuming they are all pretty much like this.

I know I depend on the animated radar these facilities provide; and in these times of life-threatening weather events, their data has never been more important. So, even though a squadron of fighter jets use this tower to plot their wall-jarring course that passes right over our house almost every day, I’m glad to have NEXRAD as a neighbor.


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Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

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  1. Loved the article on our neighborhood soccer ball. I am always curious about things in our “neighborhood” so enjoyed reading your article.