National Weather Service United States Department of Commerce

History of the National Weather Service in Kansas City

On February 9th, 1870 President Ulysses Grant signed into law a Joint Congressional Resolution requiring the Secretary of War to establish a weather service. Tasked to take and transmit weather observations from selected sites. It was assigned to the Army's Signal Corps because military discipline was needed and the new service needed to have a reliable communication system. Weather observations were to be made at an initial 24 sites. Observations were taken three times daily at 7:35 am, 4:35 pm, and 11:35 pm. The observations were then transmitted back to Washington D.C. Other observations were to be taken as required.

In 1877 Washington University in St. Louis had observers from around Missouri report temperature and precipitation information.

In 1882 the Missouri Legislature approved a bill to establish a state weather service.

By 1887 the Missouri climate network consisted of 77 stations including one in Kansas City. A summary of the success of this program was reported to the St. Louis Academy of Science in 1888.

By 1888 the number of Signal Corps weather stations had increased into the hundreds. Problems were increasing between the Department of War and the Signal Corps over the Corps desire for more autonomy.

On July 1, 1888 the weather service opened their first office in Kansas City with the commencement of observations. The first office was located in the U.S. Customs Building on 9th and Walnut.

November 16th 1889 Mr. Patrick Conner became the station chief and continued on in this position until his retirement on August 31, 1930.

On May 1, 1890 the station moved to the Rialto Building on 9th and Grand. Weather observations were taken and transmitted.

On October 1, 1890 President Benjamin Harrison signed an act transferring the weather service to the Department of Agriculture. The work of the Signal Corps ended after 20 years, but in that brief period succeeded in establishing the foundation for the new Weather Bureau.

On July 1, 1891 the weather stations, telegraph lines, equipment, and the honorably discharged Signal Corps personnel were transferred to the Department of Agriculture's new civilian Weather Bureau.

On July 1, 1907 the station moved to the Scarritt Building on 9th and Grand. Weather observations were conducted.

Between January 1, 1934 and November 2, 1939 portions of the observational program was done at both the Post Office Building at the Municipal Airport as well as in downtown Kansas City at the New Post Office Building at 315 Pershing Road.

On November 2, 1939 the new office was located in the Administration Building at the Municipal Airport. Observations were conducted.

On June 30, 1940 the Weather Bureau was transferred to the Department of Commerce.

In 1954 Severe Local Storms (SELS) was moved to Kansas City and shared the building with the local Weather Bureau office at the Administration Building in the Municipal Airport.

On January 20, 1966 the office moved to the FAA Building at the Municipal Airport. The office ended up being the largest outside of Washington D.C. The Office was known as The National Severe Storms Forecast Center (NSSFC) and it included the following units: Observations, SELS which conducted the nations severe thunderstorm and tornado watch program, a RADU unit which analyzed hourly radar reports, a Comms unit which managed the Weather Bureau's teletype circuits, a District Forecast unit responsible for forecasting in a four state area, a Flight Advisory unit for aviation forecasting in the Midwest, a WSR-57 radar unit, a Public Service Unit, a National Public Service unit, a Satellite unit, a Charting unit, a Computer unit, and lastly a Techniques and Development unit.

January 1, 1967 the Weather Bureau is renamed the National Weather Service.

On October 2, 1972 the National Weather Service observational program moved to a trailer on the southwest side of the Kansas City International Airport. The office was known as a Weather Service Office (WSO). The remainder of NSSFC moved to the Federal Building in downtown Kansas City.

April 15, 1979 the National Weather Service moved into a permanent building at 1236 Mexico City Avenue. Responsibilities included; surface observations, severe local warnings, and local adaptive forecasts. The office operated an WSR-57 radar and monitored multiple ALERT systems which received rainfall and river stage information. Starting in 1993 the office began to transfer functions to a new Weather Forecast Office in Pleasant Hill, MO. The International Airport office continued operations until the summer of 1996 when remaining functions transferred to WFO Pleasant Hill and the WSR-57 radar was decommissioned. Beverly Poole was the MIC of the International Airport office from February 1988 through April 1991. Randall McKee was MIC of the office from December 1991 through January 1994.

In 1993 the Weather Forecast Office in Pleasant Hill began to spin up. That office is still located in a NWS owned facility located at 1803 North 7 Highway, Pleasant Hill, MO. The office is co-located with the Missouri Basin River Forecast Center. The first MIC of the Pleasant Hill office was Randall McKee who transferred from the International airport office. Mr. McKee held that position until January 1994. He was followed as MIC by Lynn Maximuk who performed those duties from October 1994 to April 2006. The WFO in Pleasant began to assume forecast and warning responsibility in 1994 and eventually became a full function WFO in 1996. In October 2006, Julie Adolphson began her tenure as Meteorologist in Charge. Julie Adolphson retired in February 2023, and Melissa Kreller began as Meteorologist in Charge in August 2023.