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The National Weather Service has its beginnings in the early history of the United States. Weather has always been important to the citizenry of this country, and this was especially true during the 17th and 18th centuries. The beginning of the National Weather Service we know today started on February 9th, 1870, when President Ulysses S. Grant signed a joint resolution of Congress authorizing the Secretary of War to establish a national weather service. This resolution required the Secretary of War "to provide for taking meteorological observations at the military stations in the interior of the continent and at other points in the States and Territories...and for giving notice on the northern (Great) Lakes and on the seacoast by magnetic telegraph and marine signals, of the approach and force of storms"

After much thought and consideration, it was decided that this agency would be placed under the Secretary of War because military discipline would probably secure the greatest promptness, regularity, and accuracy in the required observations. Within the Department of War, it was assigned to the Signal Service Corps under Brigadier General Albert J. Myer. General Meyer gave the National Weather Service its first name: The Division of Telegrams and Reports for the Benefit of Commerce. Later that year, the first systematized, synchronous weather observations ever taken in the U.S. were made by "observing-sergeants" of the Army Signal Service at 22 stations and telegraphed to Washington. Mobile, Alabama was one of these original 22 offices. An agency was born which would affect the daily lives of most of the citizens of the United States through its forecasts and warnings.

The new agency operated under the Army's Signal Service from 1870 to 1891. In 1890, Congress voted to transfer the agency to the Department of Agriculture and renamed it the Weather Bureau. Although the parent agency was changed to the Department of Commerce in 1940 the Weather Bureau name remained unchanged. In 1970, the Weather Bureau name was changed to the National Weather Service, although it's primary function of public service remained the same. The National Weather Service is one of the main components of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Battle House

Battle House

The weather station was established in Mobile on November 6, 1870 by the Signal Service of the War Department. It was located at 48 St Michel Street and was equipped with standard set of instruments consisting of a barometer, thermometer, hyrometer, wind vane, rain gage, and Robinson anemometer. Reports were commenced on November 7, 1870. The station remained at this location until May 1, 1872 when it was moved to the third story of the Manser Building, located on the southeast corner of Government and Royal Street. On the night of November 16-17, 1880, the Manser Building was completely destroyed by fire of undetermined origin. The office together with instruments, records, etc. were lost.

The station was re-established at the Battle House, on the corner of Royal Street and St Francis Street. Observations resumed on November 18.

(picture courtesy University of South Alabama Archives)


The weather station was re-established in the New Manser House, on the corner of Royal Street and Government Street. This was the same sight of the old Manser Building that burned down the previous year.

The wind vane and anemometer were located on top of the roof. Note the pennant flag in the picture. Flags were a primary means of warning the public of hazardous weather.

(picture courtesy University of South Alabama Archives)

New Manser House

New Manser Building

Customs Building

US Customs House


On July 1, 1884, the weather station was relocated to the United States Customs House, at the southwest corner of Royal Street and St Francis Street. 

The main instrument shelter was on the center of the roof.

(picture courtesy University of South Alabama Archives)



On September 1, 1905, the weather office was moved to the sixth floor of the City Bank Building on 17 North Royal Street.

On November 1, 1913 the office moved to the top floor of an eight story addition to the building.

(picture courtesy University of South Alabama Archives)

Old City Bank Building

City Bank Building

Old Court House

US Customs and Court House


The office again located to the US Court House and Customs House on in 1936.

(picture courtesy University of South Alabama Archives)

With the advent of commercial aviation, it became necessary to establish weather observations at the airport. The Civil Aeronautics Administration, the forerunner of the FAA, started taking observations at the old Bates Field (now Brookley Field) several miles south of downtown Mobile in 1934.

Weather Bureau personnel assumed this responsibility in 1939, working in the Guard and Fire Building by 1940.

(picture courtesy University of South Alabama Archives)


Old Bates Field

Brookley Field

Bates Field (circa 1940s)

Mobile Regional Airport

In December 1941, the weather office at Brookley Field was relocated to the current location at the Mobile Regional Airport (Bates Field), eventually occupying a portion of the terminal building.

The downtown office closed on May 1, 1953 when all remaining weather operations shifted to the airport.

(picture courtesy University of South Alabama Archives)

In 1994, the new weather office at the Mobile Regional Airport was opened.

The modern National Weather Service office operates powerful WSR-88D Doppler radar, sophisticated computers and a wide array of automated observing systems.

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