Old Photos: Kansas City Severe Local Storm Warning Center SELS

One of my favorite scenes from the movie Apollo 13 is when a bunch of engineers remap the spaceship’s trajectory with nothing but a pen, paper and a slide rule.
This almost seems impossible in this day and age, when we delegate all of our calculations to a computer. I may be a part of a dying breed of people who can still figure things out without the calculator, but I can’t take credit for this – in my day we just didn’t have calculators; I got my first one after the 8th grade. Trigonometric tables, slide rules, pen, paper or even a chalkboard were just as much a part of my education as computers in today’s schools. There is nothing wrong with using technology but it’s amazing what we can do without it.
This was a long and winded introduction to the old photos of the Severe Local Storm Warning Center (SELS) which was located in Kansas City from 1954 to 1997 (brief history of SELS could be found here). Long before the word meteorologist was associated with associated with clueless jokers on TV, these people were saving lives without 3-D motion maps, scary graphics and “one degree guarantees”. I don’t know how accurate these guys were but given what they had to work with our modern TV meteorologists wouldn’t know where to start. Apparently technology does not a meteorologist make.

©Time Inc.Al Fenn

©Time Inc.Al Fenn

©Time Inc.Al Fenn

©Time Inc.Al Fenn

©Time Inc.Al Fenn

©Time Inc.Al Fenn

©Time Inc.Al Fenn

©Time Inc.Al Fenn

©Time Inc.Al Fenn

©Time Inc.Al Fenn

©Time Inc.Al Fenn

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*post had to be re-edited