Console Replacement System Comes to Grand Forks

Did you know that the Congress of the United States has mandated that the National Weather Service will issue severe weather warnings and forecasts for the protection of life and property? And did you know that these warnings, issued for the protection of every citizen of the United States, are available on the only federally programmed national public radio network? Understanding how to receive this information could save your life, or at the very least, hearing a forecast may help you determine when to water your garden.

Weather affects our lives significantly, although only in extreme situations are we reminded just how much. The National Weather Service broadcasts weather forecasts 24 hours a day from eight transmitter locations across Eastern North Dakota and Northwest Minnesota The eighth transmitter was activated in March of 1997 near Devils Lake at Webster ND. This transmitter was designed specifically to provide better coverage of weather radio for the Devils Lake and northeast North Dakota Lakes Region. Weather radio broadcasts are available to you from those transmitter locations indicated on the map in this home page.

What other information is available on weather radio? By tuning into weather radio you can receive a regional weather summary, which explains the weather situation across the Northern Plains. Hourly weather conditions for the Northern Plains are broadcast. Daily from May 1st through September 30th, between the hours of 7 and 9 a.m., an outlook of hazardous weather is broadcast, explaining where the threat of severe weather will be located during the next 24 hours. Climate information is also available twice daily for those in the Fargo/Moorhead and Grand Forks areas.

All of this information is available during routine or quiet weather. When the weather turns nasty, advisories for snow, freezing rain, dense fog, wind chill, frost, and strong winds will be broadcast. If more serious weather is expected, your radio will be tone alerted so that you can be advised of a tornado, severe thunderstorm, flash flood, or winter storm watch or warning. The decision to issue these products is made exclusively by the National Weather Service, which is funded by the American taxpayer. When the warning decision is made, why not receive that information on weather radio, right from the source? Commercial radio and television are also good sources of weather information and should be considered partners in dispensing important weather statements.

The NOAA Weather Radio for the future, known as the Console Replacement System (CRS) was installed in late April of 1998 at the Grand Forks WFO. It became operational in May and has been used as the method of broadcasting weather information over NWR to the public. The CRS allows greater flexibility by employing computer generated voices.

Picture of computer console

These voices, referred to as Trixie and Mitch, provide better audio quality and variety than the older voices.

The two large monitors are controlled by the computers on the floor underneath the table. These monitors allow an operator to control the various functions of the CRS. One of the systems is maintained in "hot standby" always ready to go should the primary system fail. In the current WFO Grand Forks configuration, the system on the right is the operational system with the left one being the standby.

Picture of equipment in rack


The CRS replaces the older style, mechanically activated/tape driven NOAA Weather Radio. These older consoles, developed by the AMPRO Corporation, have served the NWS faithfully for over 20 years. Advances in computer technology, however, has made the older AMPRO systems obsolete.

How can you obtain this weather information? Weather radio programmed by the National Weather Service is broadcast on seven different frequencies across the country. Specially built radio receivers which pick-up these frequencies are available at most electronics stores. The radio receivers can obtain weather information direct from the National Weather Service whether you live in Alaska, Florida, Puerto Rico, or Kansas. A weather radio is relatively inexpensive, and can be purchased for $20 to $50. is the U.S. government's official web portal to all federal, state and local government web resources and services.