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Weather radar is fooled by wind farms

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — Wind farms have been blamed for disrupting the lives of birds, bats and, most recently, the land-bound sage grouse.

Now the weather forecaster?

The massive spinning blades affixed to towers 200 feet high can appear on Doppler radar like a violent storm or even a tornado.

The phenomenon has affected several National Weather Service radar sites in various parts the country, even leading to a false tornado alert near Dodge City, Kansas, in the heart of Tornado Alley. In Des Moines, Iowa, the weather service received a frantic warning from an emergency worker who had access to Doppler radar images.

The alert was quickly called off in Kansas, and meteorologists calmed the emergency worker down, but with enough wind turbines going up last year to power more than 6 million homes and a major push toward alternative energy, more false alerts seem inevitable.

New installations are concentrated, understandably in windy states including Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Colorado and Iowa, all part of Tornado Alley.

Texas, which has more tornadoes than any other state, also has the most wind-power capacity.

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