Old technology, but a system that still gets the job done

A storm was approaching the downtown Metro area on Friday evening. I was observing the sky from Target Field. Low hanging, angry looking clouds raced over the ballpark. An announcement was made for patrons to seek shelter after we received the National Weather Service warning on NOAA Weather Radio. Strong gusty winds drove sheets of rain horizontal for about five minutes, followed by a steady rain for an additional fifteen minutes.

Earlier in the afternoon the Storm Prediction Center had issued a Severe Thunderstorm Watch for a large swath of Minnesota, extending into northwest Wisconsin. Three distinct storms were particularly dangerous. Damage reports have been documented and posted. Some reports I overheard stated that folks had little or no warning in rural areas of northwest Wisconsin. Sirens were not heard was one comment.

The summary I reviewed on the Duluth NWS website, details can be found here, noted an average warning lead time of more than a half hour. Devastation was widespread due to winds that may have exceeded 100 mph.

I share this because I have been in the severe weather warning business for thirty-nine years. This is almost as long as the availability of NOAA Weather Radio. I am old enough to recall that in the 1970s and 80s meteorologists or met techs manually sent out the tone alert and read the warnings over the air waves. Currently the voice and tone alarms are automated.

Here’s a look at the coverage area for part of northeast Minnesota and northwest Wisconsin. Broadcast range can vary due to terrain or atmospheric conditiions, but is typically out to forty miles.


Meteorologists from the government and private sector have long suggested the purchase of a NOAA Weather Radio for warning reception in your home or place of business. My experience, from speaking with the public, is that very few have taken advantage of this twenty-four hour a day all hazard warning service.

Here’s the coverage area of NOAA Weather Radio out of Chanhassen NWS Office.


Communication of critical information is a joint responsibility that ensures breaking weather information is delivered to listeners, either through our news/weather staff or from the National Weather Service.

Search for NOAA Weather Radio availability or visit an electronics store to get more information on this service. When traveling this summer you may wish to take your portable weather radio with you.

Information on NWR from the Chanhassen NWS. They share some of the events that occurred in the late night hours when you may be disconnected from local media sources.


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