National Weather Service United States Department of Commerce

NOAA Weather Radio logoAugust 12th marks the 40th anniversary of the debut of NOAA Weather Radio (NWR) in central Illinois. It was on that date in 1977 that station WXJ-75 in Springfield went on the air. This was followed in December of 1977 by stations WXJ-76 in Champaign, and WXJ-71 in Peoria.

The seeds of NWR were planted as early as 1915, when Clarence Root, the Meteorologist in Charge of the Springfield Weather Bureau office, suggested to national headquarters that "wireless telegraph" messages would be a good way to disseminate forecast information. The idea was tested using experimental station 9ZK in Illiopolis, from a station operated by Harry J.E. Knotts of the State-Center Record newspaper. 

Weather Bureau offices eventually began to do routine broadcasts on local commercial radio stations. Dedicated weather radio stations were tested in New York City and Chicago in the early 1950's, airing aviation information for pilots. In 1958, the Meteorologist in Charge of the Chicago office suggested switching their broadcast to marine information instead, which became an immediate success. Later in the 1960's, weather information for the general public was added as the network was slowly expanded.

Illinois NOAA Weather Radio networkThe major expansion of NWR was driven by the April 1974 "Super Outbreak" of tornadoes, and the designation by the White House that NWR was the sole government-operated radio system to provide direct warnings into private homes, for both natural disasters and nuclear attacks. By the late 1970's, the network had expanded to over 300 stations. Another large tornado outbreak, occurring over the southeast U.S. on Palm Sunday 1994, resulted in another renewed expansion. The network currently has over 1,000 transmitters across the U.S. and associated territories, and nearly all of Illinois is able to receive a NOAA Weather Radio broadcast.

Our office currently operates 9 transmitters in central and southeast Illinois. To learn more about their coverage areas and broadcast schedules, visit the NOAA Weather Radio section of our home page.