first official weather warning in the United States
november 8th, 1870

November 8 marks the anniversary of the issuance of the first official weather warning in the United States. On November 8, 1870, Increase A. Lapham was appointed Assistant to the Chief Signal Officer of the newly created meteorological division of the Signal Service (later the U.S. Weather Bureau and then the National Weather Service). With this appointment, Lapham was also put in charge of the warning service for the Great Lakes.

Lapham long sought support for a storm warning service on the Great Lakes. Following storms of 1868 which sank or damaged 1,164 vessels killing 321 sailors and passengers and 1869 which resulted in 1,914 casualties with 209 lives lost, Lapham sent clippings of maritime wrecks to General Halbert Paine, Congressman for Milwaukee. In a letter to Paine, he asked if it were not "...the duty of the Government to see whether anything can be done to prevent, at least, some portion of this sad loss in the future...?"

Congressman Paine introduced a congressional resolution requiring the secretary of war to establish a meteorological observing network at military stations and to provide notice of "the approach and force of storms" on the Great Lakes and seacoast on February 2, 1870. The resolution was passed by congress and signed into law one week later by President Ulysses S. Grant.

At 7:35 AM on November 1, 1870, weather observations were taken by 24 government observers and telegraphed to Washington DC and other cities. With this transmission, a National Weather Service came into being. Eight days later on the same day he assumed responsibility for warning service on the Great Lakes, Increase Lapham issued the new weather service's first "cautionary storm signal" for an impending storm on the lakes. This act was the first weather warning to be provided by what today is known as the National Weather Service.

For Southeast Lower Michigan, the below snap shot is the first observation taken in Detroit... November 1870!

First Observation in Detroit, November 1870 is the U.S. government's official web portal to all federal, state and local government web resources and services.