40 years of West Michigan TV for Bill Steffen

Bill Steffen circa 1974 and in 2014.


GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Storm Team 8 Chief Meteorologist Bill Steffen is celebrating 40 years on West Michigan television.

He first appeared on air in the region on Nov. 5, 1974.

>>Inside woodtv.com: Check out Bill’s blog post detailing his first day on air.

Bill is well-known among his coworkers for often working long hours to track storm systems and constantly minding his popular weather blog. His passion for meteorology is clear.

“I wake up and I say, ‘God, I can’t believe they pay me to have this much fun,” Bill said Wednesday.

He’s also a fan favorite.

“I love telling people about weather. That’s always been the case,” Bill said. “I used to get up in front of my kindergarten class and talk about weather. And that love has never left me.”

>>Photos: Bill Steffen through the years

At the ripe age of 8, with a weather station in his backyard in northern Illinois, Bill would measure snow totals and call them into the local TV station. In April 1967, he did his first on-air weather report while testing the cable TV in Winnetka, Ill. He wore his Boy Scout uniform because he didn’t have a suit and tie.

Bill got his degree in meteorology from the University of Wisconsin in 1974, and later that year got a job here in West Michigan.

At the time, grease pencils and map boards were the high-tech means of weather illustration.

“When I first started, our radar was an old radar hauled out of an aircraft in World War II that just showed black and white,” Bill said.

And weather satellite for TV didn’t really exist until the 1980s.

Wednesday on 24 Hour News 8 at 5 p.m., Bill showed off the sun and cloud magnets he used when he first started, and remembered using magic markers on weather maps.

These days, he uses computer graphics and stands in front of a green screen to show you whether it will be sunny or overcast.

The fashion has changed over time, too.

“I actually remember doing the weather in bell bottoms once,” Bill remembered.

During the blizzard of 1978, Bill distinguished himself with a marathon shift as the area was blanketed in 15 inches of snow in 15 hours. With the other meteorologists snowed in, Bill was left to do every weathercast — morning, noon and night — for 72 hours straight, catching only a couple hours of sleep.

In February 2013, Bill was honored with the Silver Circle Award for his years of service.

Below, Bill shares memories of his time on West Michigan TV.

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