About Amy Umble:
Amy Umble is health reporter for The Free Lance-Star

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Antenna on hospital extends weather alerts

A new $40,000 transmitter and antenna atop Mary Washington Hospital will expand the weather alert system inFredericksburg coverage map the Fredericksburg area. The antenna is part of the All Hazard Weather Radio network operated by the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration. It began operation Jan. 7.

The new antenna is the 9th in Virginia and one of about 1,000 in the U.S. It is meant to extend the weather warning system south and east of the city of Fredericksburg.

“In King George and Caroline counties, unless you had a good antenna, it was really hard to get,” said Chris Strong, warning coordination meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Sterling.

The hospital roof was chosen, in part, because it is one of the highest points in the region, Strong said. The hospital foundation and the Rappahannock Emergency Medical Services Council helped pay for the new system. The antenna’s primary purpose is to relay weather information from the National Weather Service, including warnings about tornadoes, winter storms and other hazardous conditions. Emergency messages from the Department of Homeland Security also are broadcast.

“Things that need to get to the public quickly are really the strong suit of weather radio,” Strong said.

Those who own a NOAA All Hazard Weather Radio can receive the signals. The radios are available in electronics stores.

(NOAA’s coverage maps for the nation are here. Click on Virginia and then Fredericksburg to see how the new antenna expands coverage in the region.)