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NWS Newport/Morehead City, NC

National Weather Service and Aviation

Together Since the First Flight

The first US Weather Bureau Station in North Carolina was established by the Signal Corps, US Army on August 16, 1874 at the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse keeper's quarter as a weather reporting station and commercial telegraph office. A second Weather Office was set up at the Kitty Hawk Life Saving Station from January 2, 1875 to 1904. It was established for the purpose of facilitating the repair of the telegraph line connecting Cape Hatteras and Cape Henry.

The Weather Bureau Office in Kitty Hawk was located in the Life Saving Station from 1875 to 1904.
(Obtained from National Park Service Website)

When scouting a location for their attempts at flight, the Wright Brothers knew where to go for their information. They wrote to the US Weather Bureau, the precursor to NOAA's National Weather Service, seeking information on locations with sufficient wind conditions to suit their needs. Kitty Hawk seemed like a good candidate, and they wrote a letter to the Weather Bureau office in Kitty Hawk. They received a prompt and friendly reply from Joseph J Dosher, who staffed the Weather Bureau office, which helped to convince them that Kitty Hawk was the best place to attempt their feat.

Mr Wilbur Wright

Dayton Ohio

Dear Sir,

In reply to yours of the 3rd, I will say the beach here is about one mile wide clear of trees or high hills, and islands for nearly sixty miles south. Conditions: the wind blows mostly from the North and Northeast September and October which is nearly down this piece of land. Giving you many miles of a steady wind with a free sweep. I am sorry to say that you could not rent a house here. So you will have to bring tents. You could obtain frame.

The only way to reach Kitty Hawk is from Manteo Roanoke Island N.C. in a small sail boat. From your letter I believe you would find it here like you wish. Will be pleased at any time to give you any information. Yours very respectfully

JJ. Dosher

Response letter to Wright brothers in 1900 from
Joseph J. Dosher, Kitty Hawk Weather Bureau employee
(Obtained from National Park Service Website)

Dosher maintained a good relationship with the Wright brothers for three years during their tests. In fact, the telegraph which alerted the world to the historic first flight came from the Weather Bureau. Orville walked to the Kitty Hawk Weather Office late in the afternoon of December 17, 1903 and sent a telegraph to his father detailing the successes of the day.

It was from the Weather Bureau Office in Kitty Hawk, that Orville Wright wired his father
to announce the successful flights of Dec. 17, 1903. (Obtained from National Park Service Website)

It was years later, on Dec. 1, 1918, that the U.S. Weather Bureau issued its first aviation weather forecast. It was for the Aerial Mail Service route from New York to Chicago. On May 20, 1926, Congress passed the Air Commerce Act, which included legislation directing the Weather Bureau to "furnish weather reports, forecasts, warnings, to promote the safety and efficiency of air navigation in the United States."

The modern commercial aviation industry, which contributes approximately $800 Billion (8%) to the Gross Domestic Product, is almost entirely weather and climate dependant. Today, more than ever, the aviation industry relies on timely and accurate weather forecasts. NOAA's National Weather Service Forecast Offices issue almost 2,500 aviation weather forecasts for 537 airports around the nation every day. The local offices also issue nearly 1,300 en route flight forecasts a day. NOAA's National Weather Service aviation forecasts help mitigate air traffic delays, and reduce weather-related aviation accidents.

"The estimated costs of delays to the U.S. air carrier system
is $5 billion per year; 65 percent is weather related."

L. Kiernan, Federal Aviation Administration National
Planning Division, to National Capacity Indicator Forum,

In the early 1900's, most of the smaller Weather Bureau offices, including Kitty Hawk were closed, leaving Cape Hatteras as the main office for Eastern North Carolina. One of the oldest locations for a Weather Bureau office in the country, Cape Hatteras maintained a Weather Office for over 100 years. Today, NOAA's Newport/Morehead City Weather Forecast Office serves Eastern North Carolina, issuing air, water, and climate forcasts and warnings.

The Cape Hatteras Weather Bureau Office circa 1903
(Courtesy North Carolina Division of Archives and History)

The Newport/Morehead City, NC Weather Forecast Office Today