National Weather Service United States Department of Commerce

History of the
Wichita National Weather Service Office
(How Much do you Remember??)


Dec. 1879 Weather data and correspondence begin as the "Wichita Indian Agency." (Think Thomas Simpson is the person in charge)
June 13, 1888 Army Signal Corp established a Weather Office in Wichita, KS. First Official in Charge (OIC), Corporal Fred Johnson. First Office 1st and Market.
1891 Weather Bureau formed under the Department of Agriculture. Sergeant Fred Johnson left the Army to become the first OIC. (Think he remained in charge until around the turn of the century.)
Special Note: George T. Todd was the 2nd OIC followed by Richard A. Sullivan. Specific dates in the position unknown.
Sept 1, 1905 With the help of U. S. Congressman Charles F. Scott, a Weather Bureau Office becomes operational in Iola Kansas.  This office took daily observations which were then sent by telegraph to Chicago to help make forecasts. This station closed down in October of 1936.
Mar. 31, 1908 Weather Office moved to 111 E. Douglas
June 30, 1911 Grew from a one to three person staff. Office moved to the 10th floor of the Beacon Bldg. At 1st and Main.
Feb. 1925 S.P. Petersen assigned as the OIC.
Sep. 27, 1929 Began 24 hour per day operation. Staff grew to 6.
Jan. 25, 1930 Discussions began with the Wichita Park Board in establishing a Municipal Airport Weather Office.
April 1, 1930 Wichita Municipal Airport Weather Office opened (current McConnell AFB location). Person in charge, Lloyd Stevens, salary $2,100.00/year. First airport observers; Jonathan Becker & John Glenn, salary $1,560.00/year. Also one city employee; Kenneth Matthews, salary $1,800.00/year. ** Pilot Balloons are sent at 5:30 am and pm each day. (Two Weather Bureau Offices in Wichita from 4/1/30 to 11/29/40.)
July 25, 1930: Martin Stubbs assigned as the OIC of the Downtown Office.
Aug. 30, 1930 Hershel Smith assigned as the OIC of the Municipal Airport Office.
April 23, 1932 Downtown Office moved to the Post Office Bldg. at 3rd and Market.
June 30, 1936 A. A. Justice assigned as the MIC of the Downtown Office.
June 30, 1940 Weather Bureau transfers to the Department of Commerce.
Nov. 29, 1940 Weather Offices consolidated and moved to the Municipal Airport (what is now McConnell AFB).
June 2, 1942 Vic Phillips assigned as the MIC.
April 1, 1947 WSR-1 Radar installed. The first Weather Bureau Office to have a weather radar (a converted World War II radar).
Dec. 1, 1953 Weather Office moved to new Municipal Airport (now Mid-Continent Airport). Office located about ½ north of the present Control Tower.
June 5, 1956 WSR-3 Weather Surveillance Radar becomes operational.
Dec. 5, 1958 W. Gordon Wylie assigned as the MIC.
June 22, 1960 WSR-57 Weather Surveillance Radar becomes operational. With this new radar the staff grows to 16 as 5 radar meteorologists were assigned to the station. They are Jack Allen, Max Griffith, Charlie Harris, Clarence Hill, and John Shockley. They also assume localized forecast and warning responsibility for 28 counties in south central and southeast Kansas.
July 13, 1965 Environmental Science Service Administration (ESSA) established in the Department of Commerce and the Weather Bureau becomes the "National Weather Service" under that office.
July 1970 Ellis Pike assigned as the MIC.
October 3, 1970 National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) established in the Department of Commerce and the Weather Service moves into the organization.
Sep. 1973 Jack Hughes assigned as the MIC.
June 1977 Max Griffith assigned as the MIC.
Aug. 5, 1978 Discontinue "On-Call" PIBAL (sending balloons up) responsibility
Jan. 1, 1979 AFOS (Automation of Field Operations and Services) System turned on. It computerizes how information is received and transmitted.
Mar. 1979 Wichita's NOAA Weather Radio is installed (KEC-59).
Jan. 7, 1980 NOAA Weather Radio at Erie, KS (WXK-95) to serve southeast Kansas is commissioned.
Dec. 10, 1981 Weather Office moved to 2204 S. Tyler Rd. (Next door to the current facility. Radar antenna tower moved from where the current Airport Hilton parking lot area is to just northeast of the new facility.)
March 1982 Office received a Unit Citation for exemplary performance prior and during the March 15th 1982 tornado outbreak across southeast Kansas
Jan. 1984 Phil Swain assigned as the MIC.
March 1990 Office received a Unit Citation for exemplary performance during the March 13th 1990 Hesston tornado
Jun. 12, 1990 Dick Elder assigned as the MIC. (Staff is now down to 12 people. No forecast responsibility and a 22 county warning area.)
Dec. 1991 Meteorological Technician, Don Eland, retires. To date served in the Wichita Weather Office longer than anyone (1959-1991).
April 1991 Office received a Unit Citation for the commendable service provided during the April 26th 1991 tornado outbreak.
Jan. 7, 1992 Weather Office moves to 2142 S. Tyler Rd.
Jan. 1992 New positions are brought on as we prepare to become a Forecast Office. This includes Warning Coordination Meteorologist - Steve Schurr, Science and Operations Officer - Mike Stewart, Service Hydrologist - Jeff Reese, Electronic Systems Analyst - Richard Majchrzak, and Data Acquisition Program Manager - Leo Ritter.
Oct. 13, 1992 WSR-88D radar is turned on.
Nov. 1, 1992 ASOS (Automated Surface Observing System) is commissioned at Wichita Mid-Continent Airport.
Dec. 1992 Meteorologists are assigned to the office to interpret the new radar. They include Carol Christenson, Jeff Hedges, Paul Howerton, Vic Jenson, and John Ogren. Also obtain a secretary - Gloria Dill. Office staff is now 21.
Feb. 1, 1994 Assumed Hydrological Service Area responsibility for the 26 counties of Central and Southeast Kansas that make up our County Warning Area.
Feb. 28, 1994 Take over responsibility of the Ellsworth, KS NOAA Weather Radio (WXK-92). Took this from the Concordia, KS NWS Office as they begin closing down. Also assumed warning responsibility for the 7 Central Kansas Counties.
April 20, 1994 WSR-88D officially commissioned. Becomes the 6th Doppler radar in the NWS Radar Network.
Sep. 19, 1994 Assume Aviation Forecast responsibility for Wichita Mid-Continent, Hutchinson, Russell, Salina, and Chanute Airports.
May 15, 1995 Assumed the responsibility of overseeing the Cooperative Observer Program for our County Warning Area.
Jan. 7, 1996 Lead Meteorologists (5) come to Wichita bringing the total staff to 26. These include Kevin Darmofal, Paul Howerton, Phil Hysell, Greg Noonan, and Mike Urban.
Sep. 18, 1996 AWIPS (Advanced Weather Interactive Processing System) is turned on to replace AFOS.
Jan. 16, 1997 Assume full Forecast Office status with assumption of all public forecast products.
Nov. 13, 1998 Attain final Forecast Office staffing level of 23.
Aug. 1998 Begin using a computerized automated voice on NOAA Weather Radio. (Ran a "Name the Voice" Contest and he became "Chance R. Storm" for CRS (Console Replacement System)).
Oct. 1998 Office received a Unit Citation for excellent performance during the late October/early November "Halloween Flood".
May 1999 Office awarded with a silver medal for "providing critical services which enhanced public safety during a prolonged period of severe weather and flooding on May 3-4, 1999.
Jan. 12, 2000 Successfully completed our AWIPS Readiness Test and switched from AFOS to AWIPS. This took place on NOAA's 30th Birthday. We were the 34th NWS Office to convert to AWIPS.
Feb. 4, 2000 The Console Replacement System (CRS) that provides the automated voice (Chance R. Storm) is officially commissioned.
Mar. 8, 2000 Commissioned the Advanced Weather Interactive Processing System (AWIPS). Wichita becomes the 19th NWS Office to have a commissioned AWIPS.
Mar. 13, 2000 AFOS is turned off.
May 23, 2000 AFOS Officially Decommissioned
April 2000 Office awarded a silver medal for "providing accurate and timely weather warnings across southeast Kansas on April 19th, 2000." 
June 2, 2000 In a Ceremony at Wichita Mid-Continent Airport, the Beaumont Weather Radio (WWH-22) was gifted to the National Weather Service from Butler County Emergency Management. James Lee Witt (Dir. of FEMA) was the guest speaker.
Oct. 4, 2000 In a Ceremony at the transmitter site (10S Abilene) the Abilene Weather Radio (WXL-71) was gifted to the National Weather Service from Saline County Emergency Management. (Programming for this radio is done from the NWSFO Topeka Office).
Nov. 16,2000 Began issuing routine 7 day Public Forecasts
Dec. 18, 2000 Began issuing routine 5 day Coded Cities Forecasts.
Sep. 14, 2004 Transmitted our first "Amber Alert" on our Weather Radios. This was for the abduction of Ashley Caldwell.
Dec. 1, 2004 Gridded "Digital" forecasts for Maximum and Minimum temperature, probability of precipitation and weather became official.
Mar. 1, 2006 Began as a test site for “Polygon” based warning versus the county based warning. This type warning became standard throughout the NWS beginning in 2008
Oct. 3, 2006 Implemented a Fire Weather Program for Kansas. This provided daily routine Fire Weather Forecasts for each county and a Red Flag Watch/Warning Program.
July 2007 Office received a Unit Citation for "providing timely and accurate flood warnings and life saving forecast information to southeast Kansas during the catastrophic flood event of June 28th - July 7th, 2007." 
Oct. 1, 2007 Discontinued the Transcribed Weather Briefing (TWEB) product that gave aviation en-route forecasts.
April 9, 2008 Initiated the Grassland Fire Danger Product which provided graphical fire danger levels by county out through 7 days.
April 18, 2008 Weather Radio Station WZ-2511 began operation from a Tower Facility 6 miles north of Sharon, Kansas, in extreme northeast Barber County. This weather radio was set-up to serve the Gypsum Hills area of southern Kansas and northern Oklahoma.
Nov. 6, 2008 Weather Radio Station KPS-511 began operation for a Tower Facility near Great Bend, Kansas in Barton County. This weather radio was set-up to serve that portion of Central Kansas.
Oct. 1, 2009 Suspended taking and transmitting Minutes of Sunshine.
Oct. 2, 2009 Michael (Joe) Rosner retired. Served as a Hydro-Meteorological Technician and Data Acquisition Program Leader (DAPM). The role of DAPM was eliminated and replaced with Observation Program Leader. 
Sep. 15, 2010 Thunderstorms produced large hail in a swath from Goddard (Sedgwick County) to Udall (northwest Cowley County). Near 119th St. West and Pawnee in southwest Wichita, a hailstone measuring 7.75 inches in diameter fell which established a State Record for the Largest Hailstone. The prior record was a 5.7 inch hailstone that fell in Coffeyville, KS (Montgomery County) on Sep. 3, 1970.
July 6-15, 2011 The Wichita WSR-88D Radar was upgraded with Dual-Polarization capabilities. This allowed to better determine the type of precipitation in a storm and the amount. Our installation was the third of its type on NWS Radars behind Phoenix, AZ and Moorehead City, NC.
April 24, 2012 Suzanne Fortin assigned as the MIC.
Oct. 27, 2014 Upgraded to AWIPS-2 (Advanced Weather Interactive Processing System)
July 2016 Weather radio system known has CRS(Console Replacement System) was replaced by BMH(Broadcast Message Handler).  This meant there was no more stand-alone system that runs NOAA Weather Radio.  Instead BMH runs within the AWIPS infrastructure.
April 2017 Ken Cook assigned as MIC.
Dec. 18, 2017 Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite (GOES-16) operationally replaced GOES-13. This expanded satellite capabilities to include one minute data aiding detection of convective initiation and wildfires.  
Feb. 26, 2018 Fire weather services expanded with the issuance of "hot spot" notifications using satellite data to detect wildfires during elevated fire weather conditions.