Page created and maintained by Roger Edwards, Storm Prediction Center
Turning the tables on forecasters, a supercell thunderstorm punched this radar's dome inward, as if by a huge fist. The dome was located in the rear flank of the supercell shown above, under or very near the mesocyclone. The "fist" was a severe rear-flank downdraft (RFD) that slammed the reinforced fiberglass skin of the dome, collapsing it against the back of the antenna within, and of course, disabling the radar. Replacement radar domes are not common commodities; so the dome took weeks to replace.
The WSR-88Ds are very sturdy weather radars, having survived hurricanes, typhoons and numerous direct hits from severe thunderstorms nationwide in the past decade. This event near Del Rio TX (shortly after 1 a.m. on 26 May 2001) was the first time one of these radars has been so badly damaged. [An airport radar in Chicago was similarly damaged in 2000.] Unfortunately, because the severe downdraft came down directly onto the radar, it was actually too close to be effectively measured by the radar beforehand because of a vertical "cone of silence" caused by a limit on how high the antenna can tilt.