IRHS campus targeted as weather station base

DAGSBORO – Whether Old Man Winter delivers harsh winter weather with an abundance of snowfall remains to be seen.

When it snows, Delaware’s Department of Transportation has a snow removal reimbursement program that hinges in part on data from several dozen miniature weather stations based statewide.

By early fall, one of the Delaware Environmental Observing System (DEOS) weather stations should be based on the Indian River High School campus in Dagsboro, moved from its current monitoring base at the town of Selbyville’s wastewater treatment facility on Polly Branch Road.

“DelDOT has a snow removal reimbursement program,” said DEOS Director Kevin Brinson. “The program started in 1996 after a really bad winter of snow. It provides some reimbursement funds to neighborhoods, civic associations, homeowner associations, and that kind of thing to help speed up the snow removal process. Those associations that participate in the program with DelDOT, they receive a partial reimbursement of the removal cost based on the amount of snow that falls. We have 26 stations that help that program. This station is one of them.”

For more than 10 years, DEOS has been providing real-time environmental conditions for Delaware and the surrounding region, including Chester County, PA. It is part of the University of Delaware’s Center for Environmental Monitoring and Analysis.

“Its initial purpose was to support emergency management, through DEMA and the counties and municipalities. But as it has gone on we have been able to take the information from the system and use it,” said Mr. Brinson.

The self-sustaining system monitors rainfall, snowfall, wind speed and direction and other aspects of weather. It reports real-time data every five minutes on the DEOS website, which is accessible to anyone. Data could even be used in making decisions on school closings or delays.

Indian River School District’s board of education cast approval to the DEOS request to place the 10-foot weather station on the Indian River High School campus. Mr. Brinson and IRSD Supervisor of Building and Grounds Joe Booth toured the high school campus and pinpointed five potential locations.

The preferred site is an undeveloped area off Clayton Avenue. Final decision will be made by IRHS Principal Michael Williams.

Kevin Brinson, director of the Delaware Environmental Observing System, looks on as Joe Booth, Indian River School District’s supervisor of building and grounds, addresses the school board.

“We’ve located five possible spots, which gives the principal some options. The main thing is not to put it in a place that is going to be in the way of other school activities. It’s a stationary thing. It is not meant to be moved,” said Mr. Brinson.

Besides snow removal reimbursement, DEOS data factors in DelDOT’s decisions to optimally deploy  snow plowing assets, Mr. Brinson said.

Agriculture is another big part. “We have an irrigation scheduling system used by not everybody but a number of farmers around the state to manage their crop water demands,” said Mr. Brinson. “We also have been doing water level monitoring on some ponds particularly in Kent and Sussex counties … to prevent dam breeches.”

If soil is somewhat undisturbed where the station would go soil sensors would be installed to measure soil moisture and soil temperature for agriculture purposes, Mr. Brinson said

Statewide, DEOS is a 57-station network that supports DelDOT and the Delaware Emergency Management Agency operations during weather emergencies.

Mr. Brinson said the Selbyville location is being re-purposed by the town as a firearms training facility.

“So, we needed to move it but we had to keep it in a certain zone to support DelDOT and their program. It is important that the station be in areas that they are interested in for snow removal,” said Mr. Brinson. “Anywhere along the Rt. 113 corridor up to Millsboro was an OK location. The Indian River High School location was a good spot.”

Current DEOS weather stations are also located in at the Stockley Center, Delaware Coastal Airport, Long Neck and Harbeson.

Weather stations are positioned on a concrete base. They are 100-percent maintained by the center’s staff with no cost to the school district.

Mr. Booth said the DEOS system would benefit “our school district, state citizens and there is a learning component.”

Mr. Brinson is hoping to work with Lou Ann Hudson, the school district’s director of curriculum and instruction on potential educational connections.

“In this case with the IRSD I am hoping to work maybe with somebody who is more on the curriculum side of things to see if there are ways we can provide a regular resource for them that they can turn around and easily leverage in the classroom,” said Mr. Brinson. “We would like to partner with them and do whatever we can to provide whatever data, charts or graphs.”

Once the location is determined, station installation would take only a couple days, Mr. Brinson said.

News Editor Glenn Rolfe can be reached at grolfe@newszap.com

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