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BWCA Weather

BWCA Weather for Ely, Grand Marais, and the Gunflint Trail

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Friday, July 18, 2003 Volume 14, Issue 28

Lightning detector, tracking system installed in Ely

It may look like a rooftop plumbing vent, but it’s not.

The white piping newly installed atop Voyageur North Outfitters in Ely is actually a lighting strike detection system, capable of sensing the electrical charges from lightning up to 300 miles away, of differentiating between cloud-to-cloud and cloud-to-ground strikes, and of plotting those strikes and storm movements on a Web map that’s updated every five minutes.

The equipment was installed a week ago by Erik W.L. Anderson of, a Web site serving customers of the BWCAW and area resorts.

Anderson, who also is a weather spotter with the National Weather Service’s Skywarn program, said the data will be useful in a couple key ways.

As well as allowing flying U.S. Forest Service fire spotters to key on specific areas just hit by lightning, the system will give Web users a way to track incoming storms in the same way you can look at a time-lapse radar loop Online.

Anderson said he chose John and Lynn O’Kane’s Voyageur North Outfitters not because of its location, but because he and the O’Kanes have already worked together, and because his system’s access to their computers allows the data to be uploaded to the Web every five minutes.

Lynn O’Kane said the couple has had their own weather station on the building for a year and a half, which has been a handy addition to the services they provide customers. The new lightning strike data will be even more interesting.

“When that last storm came through, we watched where the lighting was going as the storm was coming in,” she said.

You’ll be able to find the lightning strike data by using a link planned on the O’Kanes’ Web site at, or by logging on to


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