By John Brasher

• CKL was the National Weather service call sign for the Centreville WSR-57 radar installation.

Following the tornado, CKL was repaired and placed back in service, remaining the weather eyes for central Alabama until being replaced by the current Doppler radar installation located in Calera. At that time the Birmingham Forecast Office was also moved from its location at 11 West Oxmoor Road to the new Calera location, near the Shelby County Airport.

Centreville Radar still sits on the ridge southwest of Brent. The building had been leased from the property owner by the Department of Commerce. The facility is largely unchanged from the days when operators from the Weather Service “cranked” the controls of the radar console inside.

May 27, 2013 marked the 40th anniversary of the Brent Tornado. Brent Mayor Dennis Stripling was kind enough to meet with JB Elliott, Bill Murray, and myself on May 9th. of that year. JB was with the National Weather Service at the time of the Brent Tornado, and did the storm survey for that event. He is still heavily involved in severe weather coverage and weather forecasting  in the Birmingham area. Bill is an integral part of and regular contributor to the ABC 33/40 weather blog and other weather related projects. Bill is a weather historian and both he and JB have a keen interest in the Brent Tornado.

We had a great trip to Brent and sincerely appreciate Mayor Stripling’s hospitality.

Following re-construction, Centreville Radar (CKL) was back on-line in time for the April 3, 1974 Super Outbreak. Radar operator Ed Landry was on duty that night, and Ed writes:

“Aside from the Brent maxi-tornado, I distinctly remember working the radar that very long and deadly night of the tornado outbreak of April, 1974. That was one hellish night to be part of… I saw and reported a lot of active things that night that I never dreamed existed…”

One of the tornados in Alabama that night, which was later classified as an F-5,was indicated by the radar as having a forward speed of 120 miles per hour.

Centreville Radar remained the weather sentinel for Central Alabama until the early 1980’s and the Doppler age when the office was moved to the new facilities in Calera.

The radar no longer sweeps the Alabama skies. The clack of the teletype no longer echos through the hallway. But it still keeps watch on the hill southwest of Brent.

Centreville Radar continues its silent vigil

Centreville Radar, May 9, 2013

Centreville Radar, May 9, 2013

ltr - Bill Murray, JB Elliott, Dennis Stripling.

ltr – Bill Murray, JB Elliott, Dennis Stripling.

2 Responses to “CKL WSR-57’s Silent Vigil”

  1. Ed landry said

    Give me a call in May of 2023 and I’ll get my walker and try and be at the 50th anniversary! Ed

  2. Rick said

    Reading up on weather events historically and ran across this page and the Brent tornado. Out of curiosity, is the wsr-57 equipment still there as a museum?

    Is the equipment (dish) and components still in the radar tower under the radome?

    If it’s still in tact, this is a nice piece of weather radar technology history.

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