NWS Melbourne Office History

December 1988 - Construction of new NWS Weather Forecast Office (WFO) at Melbourne Regional Airport begins.

April 1989 - Meteorologist In Charge reports for duty. Staff of one.

July 1989 - Melbourne becomes first NWS field office completed under the National Modernization and Associated Restructuring (MAR) of the NWS. Staff of Three.

October 1989 - Forecast and warning operations begin for Brevard, Indian River, Lake, Orange, Osceola and Seminole Counties. Staff of nine.

January 1990 - First Science and Operations Officer (SOO) in the Nation reports at Melbourne.

June 1990 - Melbourne Hydrologic Service Area (HSA), the first in state history is established. Responsible for forecasting all of Florida rivers except western panhandle.

January 1991 - Construction begins on second WSR-88D (NEXRAD) system in the Nation at WFO Melbourne!

Summer 1991 - NWS Melbourne hosts Operations Center for Convection and Precipitation/Electrification Experiment (CaPE). A major research project investigating Florida thunderstorms, lightning and rainfall and involving over 200 scientists. NWS Melbourne, USAF, and National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) meteorologists collaborate on improving short-range forecasts of thunderstorm initiation.

October 1991 - The second WSR-88D in the Nation; the first in a sub-tropical, maritime climate, begins operational use at Melbourne. Staff of 20.

The Melbourne WSR-88D supports the Nation's Space Program. Dedicated users include the USAF at Cape Canaveral and Patrick AFB, and NOAA's Spaceflight Meteorology Group at Johnson Spaceflight Center in Houston, and the Applied Meteorology Unit at Kennedy Space Center.

October 1991 - Joint NASA, USAF, NWS agreement establishing the Applied Meteorology Unit (AMU) completed. The AMU is tasked with applications development and technology transfer to improve forecasts for space operations with spinoff benefits to public forecast and warning operations.

March 1992 - Melbourne staff performs exceptionally well with WSR-88D during the two worst hailstorms in Florida history. Despite over 100 million dollars in damage, no deaths or serious injuries reported in Orlando area.

July 1992 - NOAA's Spaceflight Meteorology Group uses Melbourne WSR-88D to support Space Shuttle mission (STS-46) for first time.

Summer 1992 - Melbourne and NWS Southern Region meteorologists work with Massachusetts Institute of Technology Lincoln Laboratory and FAA scientists to test Orlando Terminal Doppler Weather Radar (TDWR) workstation.

August 1992 - Melbourne WSR-88D performs flawlessly during approach and passage of Hurricane Andrew over south Florida and becomes first operational NEXRAD to track a hurricane.

March 1993 -Melbourne WSR-88D performs flawlessly during the infamous "Storm of the Century"as tornadic squall line sweeps through east central Florida.

September 1993 - Presented National Weather Service Modernization Award for "Exemplary manner in which WFO Melbourne has used new technologies to support public warning and forecast services to east central Florida"

October 1993 - Awarded NOAA Unit Citation for performance during Hurricane Andrew.

Jan-Feb and Aug-Sep 1994 - SWIFT BOAT I and II, a unique program to investigate marine weather phenomena with a chase boat and compare to WSR-88D data as well as provide staff training and familiarization is successfully completed under the direction of NOAA Corps. officer.

March 1994 - Melbourne WSR-88D and facility dedication ceremony is held on March 31st. Melbourne becomes third NWS office in Nation, and first east of the Mississippi, to commission the WSR-88D.

April 1994 - Forecast and warning responsibility expanded to cover all of east central Florida including Martin, Okeechobee, St. Lucie and Volusia Counties as the WSR-88D is formally commissioned.

June 1994 - First official Open House of Melbourne Office. 1200 Citizens tour the office.

July 1994 - Melbourne HSA successfully handles record flooding in north Florida from remnants of Tropical Storm Alberto.

November 1994 - Tropical Storm Gordon spawns killer tornado at Barefoot Bay south of Melbourne and brings flooding rainfall to east Central Florida.

August 1995 - Hurricane Erin strikes just south of Melbourne WSR-88D. NWSO Melbourne wins a Service Enhancement "Silver medal" for its forecast and warning performance during the hurricane.

August 1995 - NWSO Melbourne earns second NWS Modernization Award for "continued excellence in operational research and dedication to the spirit of scientific collaboration".

March 1996 - Severe storms produce Golf-ball to soft-ball size hail and several tornadoes over many areas of central Florida during the 30th and 31st. Severe weather warnings provide plenty of time for residents to prepare for the storms.

July-August 1996 - NWSO Melbourne provides special weather support for the preliminary Olympic soccer matches held at the Citrus Bowl in Orlando. Melbourne Meteorologist Scott Spratt travels to Savannah, Georgia to man the Olympic Marine Weather Support Office for the Olympic sailing venue .

July-August 1996 - In collaboration with the National Severe Storms Laboratory (Norman, OK) and NASA, a Warning Decision Support System (WDSS) is installed at NWSO Melbourne. The WDSS uses data from the Melbourne WSR-88D (radar) and unique display capabilities to provide forecasters with an additional tool for severe weather forecasting and warning.

October 1996 - Tropical Storm Josephine makes landfall in Northwest Florida and produces numerous tornadoes across east central Florida. NWSO Melbourne issues warnings well in advance of all tornadoes, including the strong Edgewater tornado. A NWS Service Enhancement "Gold medal" was awarded for forecast and warning performance during the tornado outbreak.

November 1996 - The Melbourne Office hosts its second official Open House .

December 1996 - Project Thunderstorm Reunion.

November 1997 - The third Open House draws over 500 visitors!

February 1998 - Tornado Outbreak. A series of supercell thunderstorms produced 6 strong to violent tornadoes late on the 22nd and early on the 23rd. Although Tornado Warnings were issued well in advance of all touchdowns, 42 fatalities occurred (38 died in mobile homes and RV's), making it by far the most deadly tornado outbreak in the history of Florida. A NWS Service Enhancement "Gold medal" was awarded for forecast and warning performance during the tornado outbreak.

December 1998 - US Department of Commerce Gold Medal awarded to the NWS office in Melbourne for performance during the tornado outbreak of February 1998.

March 1999 - WSFO Melbourne assumes complete forecast and warning responsibility for east central Florida.

Spring 1999 - WSFO Melbourne begins daily production of local hazardous weather graphics to complement other forecast products. The "Graphical Hazardous Weather Outlook" would be modified several times over future years. 

September 1999 - Hurricane Floyd brushes the Florida coast prompting the largest peacetime evacuation in US history.

April 2000 - Final office systems targeted in the multi-year NWS modernization become commissioned.  MLB becomes a certified Weather Forecast Office (WFO). Staff of 24.

September 2000 - WFO Melbourne spearheads a program to produce local hurricane threat graphics whenever east central Florida is placed under a tropical storm or hurricane watch or warning. The program would be expanded several times over future years, eventually becoming a model for implementation across the entire (coastal) National Weather Service.

December 2000 - WFO Melbourne hosts the 2nd annual NWS SKYWARN Recognition Day (24-hour communication test).

August 2001 - WFO Melbourne begins
routine production and uploading of local weather analysis graphics to Melbourne web-page. Observations are incorporated from multiple sources and output is available every 15 minutes.

November 2001
- US Department of Commerce Bronze Medal awarded to the NWS office in Melbourne for outstanding service to the nation's space program.


November 2001 - WFO Melbourne hosts the 3rd annual NWS SKYWARN Recognition Day (24-hour communication test).

December 2002 - WFO Melbourne hosts the 4th annual NWS SKYWARN Recognition Day (24-hour communication test).

July 2003 - WFO Melbourne begins routine generation of experimental local forecasts using the ARPS mesoscale model. Output is made available on the Melbourne web-page.

August 2003 - WFO Melbourne completes Storm Ready certification for all east central Florida counties. The StormReady program helps to provide communities with the communication and safety skills needed to save lives and property– before and during the event.

December 2003 - WFO Melbourne hosts the 5th annual NWS SKYWARN Recognition Day (24-hour communication test).

December 2003 - WFO Melbourne begins transition to the digital forecast era with use of the Interactive Forecast Preparation System (IFPS). Forecasters now directly interact with forecast model data in graphical format, provide local modifications, and run text formatters to produce written forecasts (which were previously typed manually by forecasters). IFPS will allow forecasters to concentrate on periods of impact weather, resulting in more detailed and accurate forecast parameters.


August-September 2004 - Category 4 Hurricane Charley made landfall along the southwest peninsula, then tracked across metro Orlando and Sanford, before exiting offshore Daytona Beach (105 mph wind gust recorded at Orlando International Airport). Three weeks after Charley, Category 2 Hurricane Frances made landfall in Martin County then moved inland across Okeechobee County and exited into the Gulf north of Tampa. The very large and slow moving hurricane produced significant wind damage (peak wind gust 108 mph at Ft. Pierce), beach erosion, and flooding across most of east central Florida. Less than two weeks after Hurricane Frances departed, Major Hurricane Jeanne (category 3) made landfall at nearly the same location as Frances, and followed a similar path inland across Okeechobee County, exiting into the Gulf well north of Tampa. Severe wind damage (peak wind gust 128 mph in Ft. Pierce) and beach erosion was experienced near and north of the landfall location, with significant flooding impacting much of east central Florida. Combined, the three hurricanes produced an unprecedented degree of damage (property damage over 5 billion dollars) and misery to east central Florida residents and visitors. However, only 3 fatalities resulted from the hurricanes, all occurring during the clean-up phase. The names of all three hurricanes were retired from the official list of storms after the 2004 season.

December 2004 - WFO Melbourne hosts the 6th annual NWS SKYWARN Recognition Day (24-hour communication test). The Melbourne station contacted more "hams" throughout the world than any of the other NWS offices, logging 1524 contacts, located within 49 states and 57 countries.

May 2005 - WFO Melbourne hires first Information Technology Officer (ITO).

July 2005 - Following extensive efforts by WFO Melbourne and local officials, Indian Harbour Beach in Brevard County becomes the first "TsunamiReady" community on the eastern seaboard.

October 2005 - Major Hurricane Wilma makes landfall over Southwest Florida and crosses the southern peninsula over Lake Okeechobee and Martin County before exiting into the Atlantic. High winds, flooding rains, and tornadoes impacted much of East Central Florida. Despite wind wind gusts above 100 mph along the St. Lucie and Martin County coast, no fatalities occurred as a direct result of the hurricane.

October 2005 - WFO Melbourne is awarded the 2005 Larry R. Johnson Special Award by the National Weather Association for "selflessly and tirelessly providing innovative and life-saving meteorological and hydrological services to the residents of East Central Florida during a record-breaking 2004 hurricane season, especially with Hurricanes Charley, Frances, and Jeanne."

December 2005 - WFO Melbourne hosts the 7th annual NWS SKYWARN Recognition Day (24-hour communication test) and contacts 778 other "ham" stations located within 49 states. Seventy-one of the 86 NWS stations operating during the event were reached.

December 2005 - The Department of Commerce awards its prestigious Gold Medal to the National Hurricane Center and eight National Weather Service offices, including Melbourne, "in recognition of their outstanding, life-saving performance during a record number of hurricanes impacting Florida and Georgia between August 12 and September 27, 2004."

January 2006 - NWS Melbourne receives the 2005 American Meteorological Society Special Award for "providing innovative and lifesaving meteorological and hydrological services to the citizens of East Central Florida during Hurricanes Charley, Frances, and Jeanne, while also enduring personal hardships."

December 2006 - WFO Melbourne hosts the 8th annual NWS SKYWARN Recognition Day (24-hour communication test) and contacts 921 other "ham" stations located within 50 states. Seventy of the 89 NWS stations operating during the event were reached.

March 2007 - NWS Melbourne receives a Department of Commerce Bronze Medal "for tripling average tornado lead times and operating on a continuously elevated level, including hundreds of weather warnings, throughout the unprecedented 2005 hurricane season".

March 2007 - Melbourne Meteorologist-In-Charge Bart Hagemeyer and Warning Coordination Meteorologist Dennis Decker receive a Department of Commerce Bronze Medal "for leadership, innovation and dedication to the U.S. public for implementing the Southern and Eastern U.S. Tsunami Warning System in April 2005"

April 2009 - NWS Melbourne recieves a Department of Commerce Bronze Medal Award "for providing life-saving severe weather outlooks and accurate tornado warnings for east central Florida during the 2006-07 severe weather season.

January 2012 - Upgrades to the Melbourne 88D radar are completed to bring Dual Polarization technology to east Central Florida.  The addition of Dual Pol radar products will improve radar rainfall estimates, precipitation type discernment including hail, and allow for the detection of tornadic debris, smoke, and other non-hydrometeors.   

January 2013 - The NWS Melbourne 88D radar tower raising project is completed which has mitigated a potential beam blockage to the south and south southeast from new hangar construction at Melbourne International Airport.


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