GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Storm Team 8 is built on a legacy of excellence in the weather department, from master communicators like Buck Matthews and Andy Rent to master meteorologists like Craig James and Bill Steffen.
Each contributed to and upheld the high standard viewers have come to expect from WOOD TV8.
==Above, Matthews, Rent, James and Steffen share stories of changing technology and wild weather.==
Buck Matthews started at WOOD TV in 1961 as the station’s weatherman and began hosting his beloved talk show “The Buck Matthews Show” 10 years later.
He quickly won over West Michigan with his charm, wit, and humility. While admitting he was not a trained meteorologist, Buck filled the role of weatherman by presenting forecasts from the local National Weather Service office with clarity and ease. In the 1960s and ’70s, it was rare to have a meteorologist employed to present the weather on television. Buck was an expert in communication and effectively informed the people of West Michigan of the daily rain, snow, and sun chances with reliability.
One of Buck’s most memorable weather days was the Grand Rapids tornado on April 21, 1967. He left his wife and dog at home to race to work, only to find the tornado had hit his house just minutes after he left (his wife and dog were OK).
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Andy Rent is West Michigan’s longest-running broadcaster, having been on radio and TV airwaves for the better part of three decades. Famous for his time at WOOD TV in the 1970s, Andy now mans the airwaves on 100.5 The River. While at WOOD, Andy frequently filled-in in the weather department. Much like Matthews, he was hired for his communication skill and delivered the daily weather with poise.
Craig James was the first meteorologist employed by WOOD TV8, where he worked for 23 years. Craig began his meteorology career with the U.S. Air Force before working first for WZZM in the ’70s and moving to WOOD TV in the ’80s. Craig helped guide West Michigan through countless storms and snow days, using his meteorological knowledge to hone in on accuracy.
Craig said he remembers talking with a farmer who first taught him the finer details of lake-effect snow, something that hadn’t yet been figured out by West Michigan forecasters at the time. He was known for taking his keen observational skills to make predictions even more accurate than they otherwise would have been with the technology available and was trusted by viewers across the region.
>>Photos: Changing technology in forecasting
Bill Steffen has been on West Michigan’s airwaves for nearly 45 years and his passion for meteorology still shows daily. Bill said he was born with his love for the weather. His mother remembers him watching thunderstorms and snow storms avidly even at the age of 3. Bill received his meteorology degree from the University of Wisconsin before taking a job at WZZM in 1973 to work alongside James in the weather department. Bill joined the WOOD TV8 team in 2001, again working with James, his original chief. WOOD TV8 was keenly aware of Bill’s talents and like James, scooped him up when the opportunity was available.
Bill was instrumental in keeping the people of West Michigan safe during the blizzard of 1978 and the derecho of 1996. Bill is now the face of West Michigan weather and his blog on woodtv.com as gotten millions of views from around the world. He credits his success to the great people he has worked with and his lovely wife, Gayle.