With the support from the National Weather Service, the weather monitoring system, called WeatherSTEM, allows Bay County Emergency Management teams to monitor incoming weather more accurately throughout the county.

PANAMA CITY — Bay County gained its ninth solar-powered weather monitoring system Thursday afternoon.


With the support from the National Weather Service, the weather monitoring system, called WeatherSTEM, allows Bay County Emergency Management teams to monitor incoming weather more accurately throughout the county. The units are rated for 185 mph winds and provide data points such as past, current, and forecasted conditions, temperature, lightning strikes barometric readings, rainfall rates and wind speed.


The latest unit was installed behind the Bay County Sheriff’s Office.


The weather monitoring system will help law enforcement track inclement weather. Considering not just Hurricane Michael, but the more recent storms that included tornadoes, the system will help law enforcement make the proper decisions.


“Could’ve used it on Oct. 10 a couple of years ago, it probably would’ve spun off its pedestal,” said Sheriff Tommy Ford. “I think it’s rated to register winds up to 185, but I hope it never gets close to that.”


The system’s data is accessible to the public and it is a network throughout the county. WeatherSTEM offers mobile apps for iOS and Android that has a camera feed for all units.


Ford added that the monitoring system will help because the weather can be drastically different in parts of the county. A year and a half ago, there were four WeatherSTEM systems set up across the county and two of them were together on the beach.


“It didn’t really help track the storm (Hurricane Michael) throughout the county,” said Frankie Lumm, Bay County Chief of Emergency Management. “This will allow us to track the storms throughout the county and make sure I got people in shelters they need to be in.”


Previously with fewer data points, it was hard to hone in on where storms were going. Now with the ninth installment of this system and a 10th one coming in the near future at Mexico Beach, Lumm said he’ll be able to track storms from all directions in the county.


“The issue that we run into in Florida, that everybody knows, storms come from the Gulf or the Atlantic, builds, it hits, and you have about five to seven minutes,” Lumm said. “If you live in Indiana, it bounces through four states, you’ve been tracking it through Nebraska and Iowa, but here we don’t have that much time.”


The program is funded by the NWS and it is free to the county for the first five years. The NWS will maintain the systems and keep them updated for the County.


When the 10th installment of this system is put in Mexico Beach, Lumm said he believes they will help with the upcoming Hurricane Season.