Operating the old radar scope for the WSR-57 radar at the airport office (Early 1990s).
Making recordings for the old weather radio system at the airport office (Early 1990s).
Old computer systems at the Waterloo Weather Service Office just prior to the closure of the office in 1995.
The new office on Beaver Drive just after completion in 1993.
One of the original configurations of the office in the mid 1990s. Note the large blue computer terminals which have since been replaced by modern PCs.
The Deputy Meteorologist-in-Charge at work in the mid 1990s.
The original WSR-57 radar that used to scan the skies over Central Iowa.
The WSR-57 radar being decommissioned in 1994.
The radome for the new WSR-88D radar under construction in 1994.
The radome for the new WSR-88D radar nears completion.
The completed radome for the WSR-88D radar.
The radome being hoisted to the top of the tower.
The base for the tower of the WSR-88D radar
Construction continues on the radar tower.
The top of the radar tower being lifted into place.

Station Digest


Office History
Mission and Staff
The Des Moines Area
Photo Gallery
Tours and Outreach

Office History

Image of the NWS Des Moines office

Official weather observations in Des Moines began on August 1st, 1878, when the Weather Bureau was part of the U.S. Army Signal Corps. The first weather office opened in the northwest room of a two story building known as the George D. McCaine Block, which was located on the northeast corner of Sixth and Walnut streets. The Iowa State Director of Weather and Chief Meteorologist at the time was Dr. Gustavus Hinrichs. On January 1st, 1887 the office moved to the four-story Clapp Block building on the southwest corner of Fifth and Walnut streets, and on April 1st, 1889 moved again to the fourth floor of the U.S. Courthouse and Post Office on the northeast corner of Fifth and Court streets. When a new U.S. Courthouse was completed on the southeast corner of East First and Walnut streets in 1929, the Weather Bureau moved into rooms 400-404 on October 1st of that year.

On October 16th, 1950 the office moved to the second floor of the Des Moines Airport Terminals near the corner of Army Post Road and Fleur Drive, where it would remain for more than 40 years. In 1970 the U.S. Department of Commerce was reorganized, and the Weather Bureau officially became the National Weather Service (NWS) on October 3rd, moving under the jurisdiction of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). On September 1st, 1993 the office moved to its current location at 9607 Northwest Beaver Drive in Johnston, on the northwestern edge of the Des Moines metro area.

The last 20 years have seen a plethora of technological upgrades that have greatly benefited the NWS. In 1994, the NWS in Des Moines received a WSR-88D Doppler Radar, which enables forecasters to better interrogate thunderstorms and determine their severity. The AWIPS (Advanced Weather Interactive Processing System) computer system became operational in the late 1990s, allowing for the viewing of a wide range of weather data, ranging from satellite imagery to computer models, in a single interface. Along with AWIPS came GFE (the Graphical Forecast Editor), a computer program designed for the production of gridded (graphical) forecasts. The installation of new surface observation sites and river gauges across state, many of which are owned by state, private, or other federal agencies, helps forecasters identify smaller scale weather phenomena that might be missed otherwise. The last two decades have also witnessed major advances to computer model forecasts. All of these improvements have enabled the NWS to produce higher quality forecasts and alert those in the path of dangerous weather with greater lead time.

The History of Weather Observations in Des Moines (PDF, 5.4mb)


Photos from the Des Moines NWS Archives
Click image to view a larger version and caption

Radarscope Weather Radio Waterloo Office
New Office Old Office Setup Forecaster
WSR-57 WSR-57 WSR 88D
WSR 88D WSR 88D WSR 88D
WSR 88D WSR 88D WSR 88D


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