Mysterious trailer pops up on the radar screen

Sunday, July 15, 2018 9:22 PM
The ARRC trailer doesn’t belong to a retiree association or subversive political operatives. It’s an experimental small-scale radar project to eliminate blind spots caused by mountainous terrain.

My husband and I saw this trailer on Missionary Ridge the other day. It’s by the transmission towers at the west end overlooking Durango. What is it and what’s it doing up there? – Michelle Wesley

Mysterious objects overlooking Durango is nothing unusual. Take the two large panels on Perins Peak.

They are purportedly said to be microwave relay equipment. But everyone knows those panels are drive-in movie screens.

Then, there’s the Case of the Mysterious Twinkling Light.

Several years ago, Action Line was beseeched to investigate the Missionary Ridge escarpment.

Seems there was a “glow” on the ridgeline near that huge rockslide.

Of course, it was just the lights from a home constructed in the Durango Cliffs development.

Nevertheless, you could smell the conspiracy theories fermenting: St. Elmo’s Fire, survivalist campers, alien landings, spontaneous combustion and even the start of the rapture.

So now we have a new object in the county curio cabinet – a trailer with the initials ARRC.

Without any investigation whatsoever, we know the nefarious nature of this equipment.

ARRC stands for the Animas River Russian Collusion, whereby Vladimir Putin’s trolls eavesdrop on local cellphone conversations to meddle in that Gwen Lachelt recall thing and disrupt operations of the mosquito control district.

On the other hand, ARRC could mean Agnostic Republicans for Rodham Clinton, a deep-state cabal of godless contrarian liberals hiding in plain sight.

They wear Chinese-made MAGA hats and carry Polynesian-inspired tiki torches to protest the insidious influence of foreign cultures on Western society.

Or maybe ARRC is a membership group for retirees.

But then, there is the OU emblazoned on the trailer. That stands for O, U are so totally off base.

The trailer is actually from the University of Oklahoma’s Advanced Radar Research Center.

In the past 10 years, the ARRC has grown into the largest academic radar program in the nation, with more than 120 members and a state-of-the-art laboratory dedicated to innovations in radar technology and science.

It’s a rock-star program. Naturally, Action Line needed to speak to the rock star in charge. That would be Robert Palmer.

Not THAT Robert Palmer, the guy who sang “Addicted to Love” and “Simply Irresistible.”

This Robert Palmer is the radar center’s executive director and associate vice president for research.

In other words, it’s Ph.D. and not MTV.

Palmer said the center has been working on “gap-filling radar” for several years, at sites including the mountains north of Durango.

“The large, sophisticated radar of the National Weather Service is incredible, but it can’t see through mountains, and so there are blind spots like the area around Durango,” the professor said from his office in Norman, Oklahoma.

“With radar blocked, you can’t accurately track or predict localized severe weather, such as possible flash floods,” he said, pointing to the example of the 416 Fire’s burn scar just across the valley from the experimental radar’s location on Missionary Ridge.

Gap-filling radar is smaller and less expensive than the 150 full-blown weather radar installations in the United States.

Local testing and experiments started July 1 this summer and will continue for three months, Palmer said.

So the long-range forecast is sunny for better mountain-town meteorology. Thanks for working on the radar blind spot, ARRC! We’ll use it to sing your praises – because Oklahoma is more than OK.

Email questions to or mail them to Action Line, The Durango Herald, 1275 Main Ave., Durango, CO 81301. You can ask for anonymity if think ARRC stands for Angry Rednecks for Recreational Cannabis.