Recently, the University of Mary Washington installed a $10,000 weather alert station atop George Washington Hall, allowing the campus to have instantaneous access to real-time campus weather conditions.
According to Director of Emergency Management and Safety Ruth Lovelace, the station has been a priority of her department for several years.
“We have one [weather station] for the Stafford Campus that works only for the Grounds Dept[artment] to monitor temps and rain levels but nothing as sophisticated as the weather alert eagle station,” Lovelace said.
The university looked to the University of Maryland, Indiana State College, and Vassar College as models for the alert eagle station. Each of these colleges contracted with Thunder Eagle Inc., of Vienna, Va. for their weather stations, as did UMW.
“The Emergency Management Division of UMW Public Safety Department worked closely with the engineering developers Thunder Eagle to design and request the needed information relative to weather forecasting and reporting,” Lovelace said.
Because George Washington Hall is centrally located between the athletic fields and intramural fields on both ends of campus, it was the prime location for adequately monitoring lightning strikes, which is a NCAA requirement for universities, Lovelace said.
According to Lovelace, the station will not change the way the school closes for inclement weather.
“It will only allow for a more adequate real-time collection of data specific to the UMW Fredericksburg campus location,” Lovelace said. “It allows for a cumulative and comparative relationship of national and regional data which could help with closing decisions but is really only one more tool that is used during these decisions.”
Weather conditions collected by the alert eagle stations are available at http://umwva.alerteagle.com.
According to a bulletin sent out to UMW faculty, the new website provides everything from “general weather conditions and seven-day forecasts, to local and national radar, National Weather Service weather alerts and NOAA weather radio warnings.”
The interface with the National Weather Service also allows for real-time updates of Rappahannock River levels.
There is also a live camera shot of the Intramural field and the weather conditions there to provide with visual confirmation of conditions.
According to Lovelace, the station is “state of the art.”
“Not many universities are able to look at the conditions relative to their specific location,” Lovelace said. “UMW is able to tell you exactly what is happening on site, including wind direction, speed and humidity. The system meets the NCAA requirement for lightning prediction and recording so that safe measures can be taken if needed during athletic events as well as other related public events held by the university.”