Bill goes retro on WOOD’s 70th anniversary

Bill's Blog

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Some things never seem to change. We still use the same #2 Ticonderoga yellow pencils that we used 100 years ago and Ford Field is still empty on the first day of the NFL playoffs.

But the way we give weather forecast on TV has changed a lot. Thursday evening, I did a little bit of retro weather (watch above).

First, you’ll notice the video is black and white and look at my name in the old font. We wore the same sport coat every night. Sometimes we did the weather using magnetic sunshines and clouds. In the video, you’ll see one of our old weather maps, drawn by our station artist. There was a piece of plexiglass on top of the map and we drew on the glass with Magic Markers: first in black, then in four colors (black, red, green and blue). On the map, we drew high- and low-pressure centers, fronts and standard weather symbols. In the video, there’s a shower symbol at Gaylord and drizzle at Saginaw. We added the temperatures, often drawing them on the map while we were on the air.

We sometimes started with a page of statistics (current temp. in G.R., humidity, barometer reading and wind). We had a state map and a national map. The last element was the forecast. 

When I started, we only gave a two-day forecast. Today, we give an eight-day forecast. A study showed the forecast for Day 5 today is about as accurate as the day 2 forecast was in the 1960s. 

Off-air, Craig James and I used to plot large weather surface weather maps and analyze a variety of other weather maps. With no internet, weather data came via a telephone line

We’ve come a long way both in the quality of the weather data we use and in the way we present the forecast through a wide variety of media and at any time of the day or night. There’s still plenty of room for improvement and I’m sure that there will be many positive improvements in the next 70 years. 

How fun was this?!? Bill Steffen just showed us an old school weather report and our production team put it in black and white!

Posted by Meteorologist Ellen Bacca on Thursday, August 15, 2019

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