Cedar Key gets permanent weather station

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By Kellie Parkin

Technicians completed the two and half week installation of a permanent weather station on the Big Dock tower this week, making Cedar Key the first station in Florida capable of enduring hurricanes up to category 4.

“Everybody’s been wondering what that mushroom’s been about,” said NOAA contractor Lee Chapin. “That’s why it’s built in that fashion – they hope it will withstand a category 4 hurricane.” The only others like it are in Mississippi and Louisiana, he said.

The computerized weather station will transmit data to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration for upload to the Web site every six minutes, 24 hours a day. The data came online to NOAA this week, but will take 30 days before it is available to the public in order to calibrate the weather station.

Part of a national network, the weather station’s primary function is to document sea level information, Chaplin said. “Mean Sea Level is established by these tides.” MSL is a long term average of 18.6 years worth of data, an established method to predict the tides, he said. “If it weren’t for these tide stations, we wouldn’t know.”

“This Cedar Key station is very significant in the scheme of things,” Chapin said. Its Big Bend location and openness to the Gulf of Mexico makes it a principal site. The nearest primary stations open to the Gulf are Clearwater Beach and Panama City Beach.

In addition to tides, the station will measure wind, air temperature, atmospheric pressure and water temperature.

“Cedar Key was one of the first places they added wind to a tide station,” Chapin said. “It was one of the first places to get satellite communications in the ‘80s, making it possible to add wind and air. We always try to add to Apalachicola or Cedar Key first.”

The previous NOAA weather station was located on the old wooden dock. When it was destroyed, a temporary station was built nearby on the back deck of some of the Dock Street businesses.

People interested in the weather station’s readings can go to www.tidesandcurrents.noaa.gov and enter Cedar Key’s zip code 32625.