A little oval canister on a rooftop in northwest Edmonton could make flooded basements and drowned roads a thing of the past.
The canister is a mini weather radar station, and Edmonton is the first city in Canada to have bought one. The $170,000 equipment scans 32 kilometres of city sky in every direction, offering a detailed read on incoming thunderstorms to help the city better prepare for heavy rainfall.
The city used to rely on Environment Canada for detailed storm information, but this new, high-tech equipment is faster and about 16 times more accurate than existing methods.
"When a decent thunderstorm rolls by, you basically can easily get millions of cubic metres of water. It's actually quite surprising how much," said Daniel Jobin, Chief Executive of RadHyPS, the company tasked with operating and maintaining the new system.
"So if you're 16 times more accurate, you can do the math that it's going to be that much more precise in terms of calculating how much water is going to hit the treatment plants, for example."
Equipment helps city better prepare for heavy rainfall
In July of 2012, a severe thunderstorm in south Edmonton dropped five centimetres of rain in 90 minutes, leaving behind $137 million in damage.
More precise and accurate readings help city engineers optimize Edmonton's existing drainage systems to handle a similar sudden influx, Jobin said. This new equipment can help better control flooding and how much water goes through a treatment plant, as opposed to backing up in your basement.
The radar station was set up in mid-September, but hasn`t been tested much yet because of a lack of rain in the fall, Jobin said. The radar doesn't have a Doppler, so it can`t measure the direction or speed of wind, but it could eventually measure snow, he added.
"When a decent thunderstorm rolls by, you basically can easily get millions of cubic metres of water." - Daniel Jobin, Chief Executive of RadHyPS
Steven Chan, senior hydraulic engineer with Edmonton's drainage department, said data collected from the monitor will eventually be made public and could help other cities with their own infrastructure.
Once the city starts testing the equipment in May, it`ll take a year to work out the bugs and build a database that includes storm types and intensity, Chan said.
"There are still a lot of things to learn about the operations of the equipment and also the interpretation of the data," Chan said.
"It will give us a chance to understand the real problem of our system. We can increase our knowledge of the capacity of the system so that we are able to make some changes and updates so we can make improvements to avoid potential flooding."