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WSR-57 antenna

WSR-57 radar antenna from NOAA

WSR-57 radars were the USA's main weather surveillance radar for over 35 years.[1] The National Weather Service operated a network of this model radar across the country, watching for severe weather.


1965May06 1919

Radar image of tornado-producing supercells over Minneapolis, 1965

The WSR-57 (Weather Surveillance Radar - 1957) was the first 'modern' weather radar. Initially commissioned at the Miami Hurricane Forecast Center, the WSR-57 was installed in other parts of the CONUS (continental United States).[2] The WSR-57 was the first generation of radars designed expressly for a national warning network.[3]

The WSR-57 was designed in 1957 using World War II technology. It gave only coarse reflectivity data and no velocity data, which made it extremely difficult to predict tornadoes.[2] Weather systems were traced across the radar screen using grease pencils. Forecasters had to manually turn a crank to adjust the radar's scan elevation, and needed considerable skill to judge the intensity of storms based on green blotches on the radar scope.[1]

The military designation for the WSR-57 is AN/FPS-41.[2]

NOAA has pictures of the Charleston, SC WSR-57 radar image of Hurricane Hugo in 1989. Located the National Hurricane Center (NHC), Hurricane Andrew in 1992 blew the WSR-57 dish off their roof. The NHC report on Hurricane Andrew shows its last radar image, as well as images from nearby WSR-88D radars. As the network of WSR-57 radars aged, some were replaced with WSR-74S models of similar performance but with better reliability. WSR-57 operators sometimes had to scramble for spare parts no longer manufactured in this country.[1] 128 of the WSR-57 and WSR-74 model radars were spread across the country as the National Weather Service's radar network until the 1990s.[4] They were gradually replaced by the WSR-88D model (Weather Surveillance Radar - 1988, Doppler), constituting the NEXRAD network.

The last WSR-57 radar in the United States was decommissioned on December 2, 1996.[1]

Radar sitesEdit

The 66[1] former sites of the WSR-57 include[2][5][6][7] the following:

Site (Site ID) Commissioned
(Date / Chronological Rank)
Miami, FL (MIA)

Moved to Coral Gables in 1967.

June 26, 1959


August 24, 1992

Destroyed during Hurricane Andrew.

Kansas City, MO (MCI)

The dome still resides downtown.



November 9, 1995
Charleston, SC (CHS)[1] 1959

About 16th

December 2, 1996
Key West, FL (EYW?) Early 1960

Among first 31

Early 1980s

Replaced by a WSR-74S.

Wichita, KS (ICT) June 22, 1960

Among first 31

November 9, 1995
Cincinnati, OH (CVG)

(Covington, KY) at the Greater Cincinnati Airport.

1960 (testing in June)

About 16th

June 21, 1996
St. Louis, MO (STL) July 1960

Among first 31

June 19, 1996
Wilmington, NC (ILM) Before September 1960

Among first 31

November 16, 1995
Tampa Bay Area, FL (TBW) 1960

Among first 31

November 9, 1995
Galveston, TX (GLS) 1960

Among first 31

May 22, 1995
Brownsville, TX (BRO) March 1961

About 16th

February 28, 1996
Fort Worth, TX (FTW) moved to

Stephenville, TX (SEP) in October 1973.

April 5, 1961

Among first 31

August 1, 1995
Detroit, MI September 12, 1961[8]

Among first 31

Replaced with a WSR-74S.
Amarillo, TX (AMA) 1961

Among first 31

September 15, 1994
Norman, OK - NSSL

Research radar; not part of the national network.


Probably not counted among first 31

Catalina Island, CA (STC?)

a.k.a. Santa Catalina - atop Blackjack Mountain.

Early 1963?

Among first 31

Little Rock, AR (LIT was the WSR-57 designator. LZK is the WSR-88D and WFO Designation.) 1959

Among first 31

Moved to North Little Rock Airport with NWSFO in 1975. Final decommissioning was June 8, 1995
Sacramento, CA (SAC) Early 1960s

Among first 31

August 24, 1995
Washington, D.C. (IAD)

At Washington Dulles International Airport, Dulles, VA.

Early 1960s

Among first 31

Early 1980s

Replaced by a WSR-74S at Patuxent River, MD.

Apalachicola, FL (AQQ) Early 1960s

Among first 31

January 19, 1996
Daytona Beach, FL (DAB) Early 1960s

Among first 31

December 1, 1995
Des Moines, IA (DSM) Early 1960s

Among first 31

May 7, 1996
Chicago, IL (?) Early 1960s

Among first 31

Early 1980s

Replaced by a WSR-74S at Marseilles, IL

Evansville, IN (EVV) Early 1960s

Among first 31

July 12, 1996
Lake Charles, LA (LCH) Early 1960s

Among first 31

October 12, 1995
New Orleans, LA (MSY)

At Slidell, LA

Early 1960s

Among first 31

August 22, 1995
Minneapolis, MN (MSP)

At the airport

Early 1960s

Among first 31

April 3, 1996
Missoula, MT (MSO)

At Point Six Mountain

Early 1960s

Among first 31

December 12, 1995
Atlantic City, NJ (ACY) Early 1960s

Among first 31

September 13, 1995
New York City, NY (NYC)

At 30 Rockefeller Plaza.

30 Rockefeller Plaza New York City RCA GE Building
Early 1960s

Among first 31

September 26, 1995
Oklahoma City, OK (OKC) Early 1960s

Among first 31

July 25, 1994
Portland, ME (?)

At Brunswick Naval Air Station

November 1969 Replaced by a WSR-74S.
Jackson, MS (JAN)

At Jackson International Airport at Thompson Field.

1969 June 21, 1995
Limon, CO (LIC) 1960s December 22, 1995
Garden City, KS (GCK) 1960s September 1, 1994
Grand Island, NE (GRI) 1960s January 19, 1996

Has been torn down to make way for a new airport termial

Buffalo, NY (BUF) 1960s February 14, 1996
A note on the chronological ranks - The first 31 were built through the early 1960s, at existing Weather Bureau offices. 14 were along the Gulf and Atlantic coasts. 11 were in the Midwest. 3 were inland of the East Coast, and California and Montana had one each on mountaintops. The late 1960s saw 14 more built east of the Rockies.
Nashville, TN (OHX)

At Old Hickory Lake

November 1970 January 19, 1996
Memphis, TN (MEG?)

At the Millington Naval Air Station.

February 1971 December 1985

Replaced by a WSR-74S.

Medford, OR (MFR) June 1971 August 30, 1996
Centreville, AL (CKL)

Next to Brent, AL

June 27, 1995
Pensacola, FL (PNS/NPA) January 19, 1996
Athens, GA (AHN) September 13, 1996
Waycross, GA (AYS) January 19, 1996
Cape Hatteras, NC (HAT) December 6, 1995
Pittsburgh, PA (PBZ) May 10, 1995
Huron, SD (HON) October 30, 1971 [9] November 4, 1996, now a live dual-polarization for KELO-TV
Bristol, TN (TRI) January 19, 1996
Midland/Odessa, TX (MAF) June 4, 1996
Neenah, WI (EEW) 1972? November 2, 1995
Hondo, TX (HDO) July 1971[10]

Last (66th)

March 14, 1996

Radar propertiesEdit

Last radar images WSR Miami Hurricane Andrew-1992

Last image of the Miami's WSR-57 blown off by Hurricane Andrew.

  • The radar uses a wavelength of 10.3 cm.[11] This corresponds to an operating frequency of 2890 MHz. This frequency is in the S band, which is also used by today's weather radar network.
  • WSR-57 radars had the following interesting statistics:[11]
  • Dish diameter: 12 feet (3.7 m)
  • Power output: 410,000 watts
  • Maximum range: 915 km (494 nm)


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 "Weather service retires last of old radars". USAToday. November 4, 1999. Retrieved 2008-03-27. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 "History of Operational Use of Weather Radar by U.S. Weather Services". AMS. Retrieved 2008-03-27. 
  3. "Historic Tornado Warning Conference Launched Nation's First Weather Radar Network". NOAA. Retrieved 2008-03-27. 
  4. "An Overview of NEXRAD Products Available via UCAR's Unidata Program". Archived from the original on April 20, 2008. Retrieved 2008-03-27. 
  5. "Assessment of Nexrad Coverage and Associated Weather Services (1995)". Retrieved 2008-03-27. 
  6. "Report of US Weather Bureau Studies in Radar Hydrology". Retrieved 2008-03-27. 
  7. "NWS Offices Past and Present". Retrieved 2008-03-27. 
  8. National Weather Service Detroit/Pontiac Forecast Office. "Beecher 50th Anniversary Commemoration". National Weather Service Central Region Headquarters. Retrieved 2014-06-26. 
  10. "HONDO, TEXAS". Retrieved 2008-03-27. 
  11. 11.0 11.1 "WSR - Weather Surveillance Radar". Retrieved 2008-03-27. 

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