The National Weather Service forecast office in Grand Junction is designed to never shut down, not even for a second.
There’s enough diesel fuel on hand to power the large generator behind the building for a month.
If that weren’t enough, a cabinet filled with dozens of large car batteries serves as another power backup in a server room that is bookended by industrial air conditioners that keep cool towers of hardware.
Under the radar: A day at the National Weather Service office
Have you ever wondered what it’s like to be a forecaster for the National Weather Service in Grand Junction? Here’s your chance to find out with this feature on the men and woman who predict the weather for Steamboat Springs and 52,000 square miles of western Colorado, southern Wyoming and eastern Utah. The stakes are high in this office, and a lot of people depend on the forecasters inside of it.
If anything is out of whack, even by a degree, alarms go off, and Chris Kornkven springs into action.
“They’re very serious about keeping us up and running through anything,” Kornkven said.
Of course, even the best technological systems and backups have occasional hiccups.
But if a software glitch or an upgrade interrupts the work, as it does a handful of times per year, forecasters in Salt Lake City and Boulder can absorb all of the terrabytes of weather data that go to Grand Junction and accurately do all of the forecasting for a large swath of Colorado.
The redundancies, security and backup power systems on hand at this small office that sits below the Grand Mesa in western Colorado are a testament to the vital nature of the work done by the Weather Service.
Without the men and woman inside the Grand Junction office, air travel at 10 airports in Colorado could face severe service interruptions.
Firefighters at the scenes of deadly wildfires wouldn’t have a forecaster on the front lines, constantly updating weather conditions.
And ranchers wouldn’t know when the rain was coming later in the week.
Together, technology and the intuition of forecasters like the ones found in this small forecasting office are saving more lives and making it easier for people to react to and plan for weather minutes, hours and days in advance.
A lot of people depend on them.
With 52,000 square miles to cover, the Grand Junction forecast office has workers traveling all across the state to upgrade equipment and fix the occasional glitches.
In recent weeks, the weather systems at airports are being upgraded to detect the amount of ice accretion for the first time.
Kornkven is one of the people responsible for keeping the vast amounts of technology the Weather Service utilizes up and running.
When he’s not at work, he’s taking care of horses on his ranch with his family.
He also likes to collect antique radios.
“It’s an exciting job,” Kornkven said.