The History of Midwest Weather Service

The story here back in the middle 1990's surrounds an office that operated on fumes due to not only space constraints, but financial issues as well. We only had a Dell Dimension 4500 computer system (a 486 which by today's standards is stone age). The task of getting all the charts analyzed, data collected and analyzed, preparing and issuing forecast products rested on one man's shoulders. This was very cumbersome and time consuming for Randy, because he had no staff back then. But as time passed, things slowly evolved. Read on...
"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, "River bend 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.

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. In the meantime, our office kept plugging away with only a mere skeleton crew.
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 substitute 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 another. In May of 2009, our staff number increased from 6 to 9.

A month after the Aviation desk was terminated and relocated, 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. On 2 March 2012, consideration was given to hoist up a winter weather page per many requests via e-mail by clients. Then on 13 July 2014, our Tropical weather page was discontinued. This was because the software we were using was somehow corrupted, and no longer retrieved the data needed to produce chart graphics featured on that web page. In May of 2012, not only did we launch a winter weather page, but also created some additional pages of winter storm statistics, historic and memorable winter storms, and other facts about such storms. On 17 May 2015, consideration was given to discontinue our "mesoscale discussions" based on the fact duplicate products were being released by the SPC. Our products pertain only to our coverage region. On 5 June 2015, the mesoscale discussions were discontinued. Later on 23 July 2015, another new product was launched - the severe weather outlook for lakes Michigan and Superior.
Today, Midwest Weather Service still reigns as our region's most comprehensive and thorough severe weather information source anywhere. Everything from outlook, 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 marine severe weather pages too. Using the latest in technology, we will strive to continue improving all our 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.

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 testament for all of us here at the office who work proudly for him. That man is our founder and CEO, Randy Groom. His wisdom and legacy will shine well into the future.

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