F A Q's
Learn About Our Job
Winter Storm Center
"Midwest Weather Service", was the name selected when our then
small office opened for business on 1 January 1995. Ironically, our office was
based out of our founder and CEO's apartment located on Prairie street here in
Stevens Point. Even though cramped for space, Randy didn't seem to mind. Randy
back then was the sole operator of the office, preparing the few charts and
graphics used in his local forecasts for the area. By July of 1995, things
began to pick up as new software was obtained for creating charts and graphics,
and Randy upgraded his only computer used at the time for not only personal
things, but for the office too. This system was a slow 486 machine, which
often crashed due to virus attacks. In May of 1995, at Randy's request, a
close friend of his, Mark Schultz, created a web page for our office on his
web site, "Riverbend Publishing". It was separated from Mark's main page for
obvious reasons, and only consisted of 2 pages. Our home page consisted of
graphics and links to various sources for weather forecast information. We
even had a voice greeting from "Harry", one of the voices heard on the DAS.
You can view what our very first unofficial web page looked like by
clicking this link. On 20 December 1995, it became
apparent that Randy would need some help getting the products prepared and
ready for use, which also included updating the "DAS 9000" telephone answering
system recently installed at the office. DAS by the way stood for "Digital
Answering System". This system was used by the few clients we received in
1995-96. Four people were selected to assist Randy with his operations on 23
January 1996. On 1 March 1996, we had enough funds available to officially
create and launch our own web site on the Internet! This event was a huge
success and Randy and his staff happily celebrated the launch of our web site.
This consisted of a couple of pages of various graphics, images, and links to
other sources for additional information at first, but quickly evolved after
that. Up to this point, our office was not writing our own text severe
weather outlooks or creating graphics as yet. That did not commence until 1
April 1997. Randy says the concept of creating this office and web site was
based on a vision he had earlier in the 1980's of a small private firm,
which specializes in severe local storm prediction and advanced warning
services for clients and general public. But, he did not want to do this on
a national scale since their already was an agency doing that, so nationally
was not covered. Rather, Randy opted to scale it down to the regional level,
making things easier for most people to understand and interpret. On 10 May
1997, Randy wrote his first text severe weather outlook since opening up our
office. You can view this outlook here.
In October 1998, our office expanded from just local central Wisconsin
coverage to the full regional aspect including the states of Minnesota, Iowa,
Northern Illinois and Indiana, and Michigan. A few months later, all non
severe weather related products, such as local forecasts, conditions, state
level forecasts, and other such products were discontinued by our office.
This was because Randy wanted to focus on severe weather prediction, the sole
purpose for our existence.
While all this was ongoing, some pilots from the local central Wisconsin
area, who were also clients sent us many e-mails regarding the possibility of
creating new products designed to alert them of impending severe weather
conditions both in flight and on the ground. No such products were available
at the time. Our staff was also toying with the idea of having an Aviation
desk added to our Storm Center. Accordingly, on 12 May 2000, an Aviation
desk was started. This forecaster handled all TAF'S, FA's, sigmets, and a
specially created severe outlook(SWO) for pilots. While this desk and it's
products were experimental, their purpose was mainly intended for pre-flight
briefings only. Of course, we did caution pilots not to subsistute these
products for a "full pre-flight briefing" from the regional office in Kansas
City, Missouri. Progress continued into 2002, when our office began testing
the severe outlook probabilities scaled down to a regional mode in June of
that year. A few months later, our Storm Center staff whipped up another
outlook product, the day 3 outlook. On 5 April 2003, the severe weather
outlook probabilities were made operational. Later, on 13 June 2003, the day
3 outlook became operational as well. In February 2005, it was decided to
eliminate the general thunderstorm outlook from the day 1 severe weather
outlook. Instead, the general(non-severe) thunderstorm outlook now has it's
own page. On 10 May 2005, after extensive work writing code for this program,
a few of our lead forecasters came out with what was hoped to be the future
of severe weather prediction. This totally new product called the "Digital
Severe Weather Outlook" would ingest the various parameters and elements
coming together to trigger a severe weather event. Based on the data it
ingested, it would plot out specific forecasts for every major city within
our coverage region. This forecast was plotted as a percentage. The higher
the percentage, the better chances for severe weather in those locations. Of
course, we would need to continue evaluating and refining this product
before we could ever place it online. In March 2006, yet two new outlook
products would be created and evaluated online. Those being a "heavy
rainfall-flood potential" and a "4-8 day severe thunderstorm outlook". Both
of those products became operational by the end of that year. By May of 2007,
it was apparent that our staff was quite overwhelmed with their jobs, and
operational products were late being placed online. Our office again
relocated to an empty small building on Ellis street in July of that year. By
this time, word was coming down the pike, which would be the solution we had
searched for, but not really want.
Word had it that the Flight Service Office at the airport in Mosinee wanted
to become a larger and better equipped office to handle most aviation-weather
related products by merging all smaller area flight offices stations into it.
This would also include our Aviation desk forecasters. But, this "merger"
also faced public opposition largely due to costs of remodeling along with
newer equipment and computers to fulfill the tasks. After about a year and a
half later, on 1 August 2009, the Aviation desk was decommissioned, and
moved into the new facility at the Central Wisconsin Airport FAA building in
Mosinee. This, after serving just over 10 years faithfully in our office.
While we were sad to see this job leave us, we also were relieved because we
really needed both the space and time to prepare and release our primary
suite of products on a more timely fashion.
And, as for our futuristic outlook, the Digital Severe Weather Outlook, it
was terminated in October 2008 after finding bugs in the program code which
could not be safely removed without re-writing all the program code again.
This was a huge setback for us, but this can be expected at one time or
During the ladder years of the 1990's, our office slowly evolved with newer
equipment and updated computer systems being installed as funds permitted.
Much of our funding was raised in local events around the area, including
donations from people who supported our causes. Obtaining the appropriate
computer software to aid our staff with diagnostic data sets, sounding
analysis, and other factors which were nearly impossible to manually compute
were added. We started out with just a mere day 1 and day 2 severe weather
outlook, along with various surface and upper air charts added for reference.
By June of 1999, our severe weather outlooks were already being used by a
number schools, universities, and other agencies across central Wisconsin.
For a short time, we even launched what was called "Instant Warn" service.
This was a dedicated e-mail service where anyone could sign up to receive text,
and in some cases, graphics, pertaining to severe weather development and
watches and warnings for their areas. There was a nominal fee for this
service. In July of 1999, things were becoming quite cramped in Randy's
apartment with our office and such, and it was time to relocate the office.
We moved into a small building on Prairie street, a few blocks from where
Randy lived. At that same time, we had announced that changes were being made
to our existing outlook products, and that Aviation products would commence
in August. On 15 July 1999, following our move, our "Storm Center" was
launched. This new unit now serves as "nerve center" for most of the
products we issue online everyday. As the 19th century was drawing to a
close, our staff began to focus on what lie ahead into the 20th century.
Already, the National Weather Service's "Storm Prediction Center" was testing
a few new concepts of severe storm prediction. Among these were "severe
weather outlook probabilities", and the "Mesoscale discussion". The severe
outlook probabilities would enhance the categorical outlook by providing the
"percent" chances for each element (i.e. hail, wind, tornadoes). It was felt
that these probabilistic percentages could contain more explicit information
for the public to understand. The mesoscale discussions would "zero-in" on
areas where severe thunderstorms and/or tornadoes are expected to occur
within a few hours. This intermediate product would serve as a heads up for
the National Weather Service offices affected so they can beef up staffing
requirements prior to a watch being issued.
Midwest Weather Service, the vision and creation of one man. A man whose
talent, wisdom, creativity, and passion for the work we all do, will shine
forever as a beacon for all of us here at the office who work proudly for
him. That man is our founder and CEO, Randy Groom. Our hats are off to you
Randy for all you have done, and will do in the future.
Web site and all contents © Copyright Midwest Weather Service Storm
Center 2014, All rights reserved.
A month after the Aviation desk was terminated, our office once again
relocated to a location on Dixon street. With plenty of room now, our office
has the space needed to store all the computers and other equipment needed to
produce the array of products we now have. In July of 2010, our day 1, 2, and
3 outlooks were updated with new elements and tables for easier understanding
overall, and a special PDS section was added to our web site. Our general
thunderstorm page was discontinued on 7 August 2011, and a general
thunderstorm areal outline appears on all day 1 and 2 severe outlook products.
Today, Midwest Weather Service still reigns as our region's most comprehensive
and thorough severe weather information source anywhere. Everything from
to short term forecast, to watch, to warning. From storm
reports and summaries, to statistics, to historical facts, it can all be
found right here on our site. But, that's not all! We also have winter
weather and tropical weather pages too. Using the latest in technology, we
will strive to continue improving all our outlook products into the
foreseeable future, so everyone can benefit.
On 1 December 2011, Midwest Weather Service office relocated again into a
private building located about 2 miles west of the village of Plover. This
was a last minute decision made in the interests of building security and
safety of the building we were in on Dixon street.
Finally, with all the recent relocating of our office, we moved one final
time to our present location on water street in Stevens Point. Here, we will
stay for a while with ample room for our primary office functions.