Richland County is using a high-tech, weather monitoring network to better respond to emergency situations, and now the same network is accessible to the public through an updated website and a new mobile app.
The Richland County Weather Information Network Data System – known as RC WINDS and available online at rcwinds.com – is the first of its kind in the nation. The County’s Emergency Services Department (ESD) developed the system of automated weather stations to help ensure public safety – but the system has implications for outdoor activities such as gardening and recreational events.
“Richland County is dedicated to providing services that are accessible to all residents,” said Richland County Council Chairman Torrey Rush. “Because weather affects daily life and is often a factor in emergencies, RC WINDS is an integral part of the County’s outreach.”
RC WINDS involves dozens of weather stations, located throughout the County, that operate around the clock to send up-to-date information to a centralized database. The RC WINDS website provides current and historical readings of weather conditions to help track storms, wind speed, temperatures and more.
Since its inception in 2013, RC WINDS has been used primarily by emergency officials and meteorologists, including those with the National Weather Service. Now, the website and free mobile app will allow Richland County residents to access the same information.
“RC WINDS is an essential tool in serving our community,” said Michael Byrd, Director of Richland County ESD. “We rely on the information from RC WINDS to help gauge our response to weather-related emergencies such as wintry weather. Information from RC WINDS was invaluable during the winter storms that hit South Carolina last year.”
Using information from RC WINDS in January and February 2014, County emergency planners could identify areas where roads were more prone to ice over and re-direct services as necessary.
RC WINDS is a hyper-local system that goes beyond information gained from the well-recognized
Doppler radar and the National Weather Service. On rcwinds.com – which includes a weather forecast
by the National Weather Service – a user can click on a weather station icon to get up-to-date weather
conditions for a specific area of the County to include temperature, rain, humidity, wind and more.
In a County where the weather conditions can vary depending on location, the uses for RC WINDS are
widespread. The S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control uses RC WINDS for its air quality monitoring and schools are using RC WINDS to help teach students about science and math.
“What we’re doing in Richland County with RC WINDS will likely become a model for other counties,
cities and states to follow,” said Ken Aucoin, Emergency Planner and Chief Meteorologist for Richland
County. “Keeping the public safe is the No. 1 goal and I’m excited the new RC WINDS website and
mobile app will allow more people to use it.”
Residents can get an up-close look at RC WINDS on Wednesday, May 13 following the CONNECTIONS 2015 conference at USC’s Darla Moore School of Business. County officials will be on hand to demonstrate the rcwinds.com website and mobile app.