1980s cable radar

This is how a lot of us got radar in the 1980s. Some cable companies carried a channel dedicated solely to live radar, as seen here. It's incredible that they actually did this, but back then CATV operators still maintained some pretense of community service.

This is the Stephenville WSR-57 radar site on 4/23/88, which was decommissioned around 1994 as the Fort Worth radar came online.

Wow!! That's pretty cool. That brings back memories.

I can remember when the weather channel first came on the air waaaay back in the day. They didn't have the regional type radars they have now. They used to show various local radars that looked a lot like that.

It's hard to believe that was only about 20 years ago...
Looks exactly like the radar the local ABC affiliate uses. They've got their stupid exclusive live dopplar radar.. but it doesnt work worth a darn. A severe thunderstorm will appear as nothing more than a small shower not 70 miles away.
That brings back memories. The presentation is the same as what Sammons Cable used in Fort Worth when I was growing up. Channel 6 on the box, I think.
radar back in the day

Before the advent WSR88D, the local TV stations had radar that output at most 6 colors: lt green, dk green, yellow, orange, red, dk, red. I began to pay attention to the weather radar back in 1981 (I was 10 years old then!). KATV channel 7 had black & white radar with sweeping circular "range rings" with sonar sound (lol). It displayed at most 3 shades of grey. As the beam made the sweep around the state, precip and especially ground clutter briefly lit up and then gradually faded away until the beam came around again.
KARK channel 4 and KTHV channel 11 displayed color radar with yellow (light / moderate precip), and red (heavy). I think it wasn't until 1985 or so when the local TV stations began using 5/6 colors.
Too bad I have no screen grabs of "vintage" weather radar :(
I'm not sure what company manufactured the equipment that produced the video display in question. All the Cincinnati TV stations had one of these and customized their displays (color palettes, cities and so on). It commonly used the 50 and 100 n-mi range rings (for the 125 mile range) to indicate the antenna location, although I did see one use a traditional sweep line. The color table always runs from VIP 1 to 5, with level 6 being the same as the scope color.

Since we're on the subject, I thought I'd post a few of my images. These are from the CVG radar (Covington, KY). This site was commissioned in 1960 and decommissioned in 1995. The local NOAA weather radio broadcast played as the audio for this channel.

This first image is from 4/3/88.

From the 6/2/90 tornado outbreak. They changed the background to a darker blue and made some minor adjustments to the color palette by this time (and yeah, that's lottery numbers at the bottom). Level 6 can be seen as the dark colored core of the storm west of Cincinnati.

A similar display at WKRC-TV on 6/2/90

This type of image was commonly used by TV stations and TWC (in the 80s). I belive the provider was Kavouras, although the file name says WSI. A fake sweep line can also be seen.

From the Brownsville, TX site. I'm not sure which hurricane is pictured, but it would of been before 1987.

This radar image actually appeared as part of the local forecast on TWC in the 89-91 time frame in Jackson, MS. The range changes from 60x60 n-mi, to 125, then to 300



I do have some older video of radarscopes from the 60s and 70s. I'll see about posting it later. The only ones that come to mind are from the 74 outbreak (WHIO-TV) and there's one on one of the Tornado Video Classics videos (4/3/64, Wichita Falls).
What's ironic is that back then... the radar images, which were all provided by private vendors, gave credit to "NWS" on the images! Wouldn't see that today...
What's ironic is that back then... the radar images, which were all provided by private vendors, gave credit to "NWS" on the images! Wouldn't see that today...

I believe I had the answer...

"6. That if any advertisement or telecasts are involved, proper acknowledgement be given to the public that the video display is from the NWS radar at ______________________ (or other location, if appropriate). The acknowledgment must be oral or visible. If electronic sweep is used, the origin must be centered at the location of the NWS radar display."

"The User's equipment must visibly specify the correct time of the image displayed, in Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) and, if possible, the date. It is the User's responsibility to know the time of the image being transmitted and the time of the image which is the basis for the interpretation."

Guess someone forgot about this one:
"User agrees to standardize VIP levels and colors assigned to VIP levels, to NWS specifications, to avoid confusion to the public."

Entire document can be found here http://www.weather.gov/wsom/manual/archive...s/NB501581.HTML

WSOM Chapter B-68, Visitation Procedures - Radar Stations.

New Chapter G-32, "Radar Data Circuits."

Policy Guidelines for Monitoring RRWDS Data Signals
OK, this is is getting fun. Here's a stumper. I have an Allsups Burrito for anyone who can guess what this is (the radar, not the storm). You'll have to take a raincheck until I see you in an Allsups town. Karen: Gene Rhoden knows what it is, so don't ask him!

I am doing research and a case study over a supercell that had long track violent tornadoes with it on May 19, 1960 across Northeastern KS. Here are some radar grabs from Topeka. From ....

This is very interesting, especially the picture comparison....they look VERY similair, amazing! That Hook Echo is amazing as well.
Here's a bizarre one I stumbled across this evening. It dates to about September 1987. Very weird... I wonder what boxes they used to make these graphics.

Here's a bizarre one I stumbled across this evening. It dates to about September 1987. Very weird... I wonder what boxes they used to make these graphics.

Looks like a test pattern. I remember seeing something like that on the CVG radar one time. Also, sometimes the CVG radar would go yellow out to about 100 nm while it was being repaired. The yellow would draw on the screen as the antenna went around. As for what generated these images...I've never found the answer.

Most of these radars also use a center blank (often to 10 nm radius). It's also common to see a good deal of screen bleed (notice the shadowing between the green and blue on the left side of that last image). One feature these still images don't capture is the ability to "flash" certain VIP levels...the Jackson, MS images I posted earlier used this function on levels 4 and 5 (also those dots around the edges flashed as well).
Another goodie I dug up -- the WFAA-8 "Precision Radar", as seen here in 1987 shortly after it was rolled out. It's neither NWS nor station radar, but is actually the CORAD S-band unit in Corsicana. Since KXAS had its own radar, I think WFAA did this to compete with them, and in the process probably gave some funding to CORAD.

Still, though, this shows something that was way ahead of its time... keep in mind WSR-88D wouldn't be out for another six years, and all you could get from the NWS was the blocky Kavouras graphics. I'm guessing CORAD's radar was not all that advanced, but boy, what a processor someone had. I have to wonder if they had an Amiga doing some of the work.

Channel 4 (KDFW) jumped in the pool and got their own S-band radar in 1988, but the images looked like crap from what I recall.

Thought I had this one somewhere. This is the same Abilene TX display as shown earlier, though branded by CBS station KTAB. The station has also included the counties in their viewing area.

This shot is from Jan. 1991, and they showed it sometimes as a top of the hour as a legal ID, with a simple voice over "KTAB T-V Abilene."

During times when activity was on the radar, they almost always replaced all their :03 network rejoin IDs during programming with the radar without voiceover.

That last one is the first one I've seen show counties. I wonder if these things came with maps loaded or if you had to use transparencies to draw your own maps. I noticed the mapping accuracy and drawing pattern differed quite a bit between Cincinnati TV stations and Warner Cable.
I know all three of the Abilene TV stations (well, at least two of them), used this WSR feed and then ran it through their own little graphics processor. The weather guy on this station (KTAB) had a big honkin' metal handheld (two hands) box with little switches. He was able to blank out certain levels to black to show the hottest cells (Looking at VIP 5 while everything else was color black really made the cell stand out). But, I don't think he was even able to make a certain level blink.

As far as counties on cable systems, for years, the cable system in San Antonio did what was shown earlier on this thread, having three different views (wide, med, tight) with county outlines superimposed.
The radar images previously posted are those of television Enterprise Electronics LTD. composite weather radars. We used a similar brand of software/hardware at WWMT-TV 3 in Kalamazoo, Michigan begining in the late 1970's through the mid-1990's (in tandem with television doppler weather radar). The radar (as seems to be an on-going theme in this thread) was continuously aired live on local cable television throught the 1980's and early 1990s prior to it's deactivation. If I had the capability, I would post a stilled image of the May 13, 1980 Kalamazoo tornado via "Storm Search 3" (as it was branded back in the day) here.

I'll note (as an edit) that not all of the images posted are those of Enterprise Ltd. brand weather radars; as some are indeed WSR-74C feeds/or composite versions.

Interesting topic!
Thanks, Blake; I'll send an E-mail over there and see if they can share any tidbits on this system (I assume you're referring to the cable TV radars, not the precision radar example?)

I beleive so.. as I said, the station I am employed by used an Enterprise conventional radar; software version escapes me attm; for broadcast and 24-hour cable usage. As opposed to the WSR-74C feed TWC and A.M. Weather would use for broadcast purposes.