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As the National Weather Service turns 154, we remember its Cincinnati roots

A historical marker stands in front of a 19th century brick building with a metal dome on top.
Bill Rinehart
In 1873, after Cleveland Abbe started his probabilities, the Cincinnati Observatory moved a few miles away from its original home, Mount Ida, which is now known as Mount Adams. The new area was dubbed Mount Lookout.

Friday, Feb. 9, 2024, marks the 154th anniversary of the creation of what would become the National Weather Service. And yes, there is a local connection.

Cincinnati is where the first weather predictions were made in the United States. Weather Service Forecaster John Franks says it started when the head of the Cincinnati Observatory, Cleveland Abbe, collected weather observations from other locations via telegraph, and made predictions.

"In 1857, before Cleveland Abbe was doing his thing, the telegraph stations from New York to New Orleans were sharing observations for climatological studies," Franks says. "He was one of the first if not the first one to take the telegraphic observations and apply them to a forecast."

That was around 1869.

RELATED: Cincinnati Observatory celebrates 150 years in Mount Lookout

"He was first to call them 'probabilities,' so that would serve the needs of commerce in the United States. He collected telegraphic weather observations and published his probabilities in the Cincinnati Weather Bulletin," Franks says.

On Feb. 9, 1870, President Ulysses S. Grant, another Ohioan, signed a law authorizing an agency in the Department of War to collect observations and make forecasts.

Franks says by 1890, the weather service was moved to civilian oversight in the Department of Commerce by President Benjamin Harrison, whose grandfather, William Henry Harrison lived in North Bend, and is also celebrating a birthday today.

Bill Rinehart started his radio career as a disc jockey in 1990. In 1994, he made the jump into journalism and has been reporting and delivering news on the radio ever since.