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13 Weatherball: Ten years of blinking bright | News

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13 Weatherball: Ten years of blinking bright

WALKER, Mich. (WZZM) -- November 13, 2012 marks the tenth anniversary of the ground breaking for the 13 Weatherball.  A weather beacon that acts as an inland lighthouse telling people across West Michigan what the weather is going to be like in 24 hours. 

This is the story of the Weatherball

13 Weatherball red, warmer ahead.
13 Weatherball blue, cooler in view.
13 Weatherball green, no change foreseen.
Colors blinking bright, rain or snow in sight.

Between 1967 and 1987, the Weatherball was perched on top of the Michigan National Bank building in downtown Grand Rapids. The bank's large sign, the letters MN, were positioned under the Weatherball, and over time, acted like a large sail which created torque on the tower and damaged the structure of the building. The historic Weatherball came down in 1987, but it didn't stop generating talk around West Michigan. The 288 neon tubes that made the colors of the Weatherball were preserved and sold to West Michigan residents. Many of those original tubes can be seen in area restaurants, stores, and homes.

WZZM 13 purchased the original Weatherball in June of 1999. "In strategic planning meetings, several employees suggested that we bring back the Weatherball," said Janet Mason, WZZM 13 President & General Manager. "We started searching for the Weatherball and found it in a scrap yard in Kalamazoo and renamed it the 13 Weatherball."

The station broke ground on the project on November 13, 2002 as WZZM 13 celebrated its 40th anniversary. "The 13 Weatherball is our gift to the people of West Michigan for all of their support of the station for the past four decades," said Mason. The station unveiled the 13 Weatherball to the community at a public lighting ceremony on May 7, 2003.

WZZM 13 Chief Meteorologist and Lowell native, George Lessens, didn't forget the Weatherball. "When I was a kid, I remember making trips into Grand Rapids and how excited I'd be to see the Weatherball," said Lessens. "We'd all take guesses as to what color it would be."

The station renamed the Grand Rapids icon the "13 Weatherball". The 16-foot in diameter stainless steel ball was refit with 288 neon lights. The 13 Weatherball is perched on top of a 100-foot pole on the northeast corner of the station's property at the intersection of Interstate 96 and U.S-131. From this vantage point, the 13 Weatherball is visible from miles away, including from downtown Grand Rapids.

The changing colors of the 13 Weatherball is determined by the WZZM 13 Meteorologists based on their forecast for the day.

You can now see the 13 Weatherball in 3D on your computer through augmented reality and also check out the complete 13 Weatherball color key.