Our story began in 1977 with Richard Wilkens’ idea to start a weather forecast company to service the oil and natural gas industry. At the time, there was a high concentration of oil companies operating in the Gulf of Mexico. Over the years, petroleum exploration expanded, prompting Wilkens Weather to expand their services globally.
Meteorologist Marshall Wickman recalls one of WWT’s early business transactions, “[Richard] agreed to do one free sample forecast in the Strait of Magellan where data was sparse and told them, if it busts remember how much it cost you. If it is right remember where you got it from.” Apparently they liked what they received as it led to 20 years of continuous forecast service.
When we started, our technology consisted of fax machines that sent 8×11 inch pages at six minutes a page. Most weather reports were a few pages and included a hand-drawn, 3-panel surface map (depicting fronts, precipitation, and high and low pressure areas). Today, we have a wealth of online and mobile interactive tools that can provide quick and easy access to all critical weather information.
Here are 10 memories and highlights from our early years:
1977 – Richard Wilkens founded Wilkens Weather Technologies, LP (WWT) when he was just 30 years old. One short year later, Wilkens cofounded Air Routing International Corporation, a partner company to WWT.
1981 – We began showcasing our technologies and services at the Offshore Technology Conference (OTC) in Houston, Texas.
1981– Broadcast meteorologist, Mark Scirto, in Tyler, TX, joined WWT sending faxes while he was working on his undergraduate degree at the University of St. Thomas. He left us in the late 1980s and has been the Chief Meteorologist at KLTV in Tyler, Texas since 1994.
Early 80s – We recorded and delivered weather broadcasts for radio stations in College Station and Wharton in a small “studio”, which more resembled a closet. WWT also recorded live radio segments with KRBE in Houston.
1984 – WWT acquired Vega weather, a small Houston metocean forecasting company. Around the same time, WWT and Air Routing International became one company. WWT and Air Routing International shared office space, but until this point had been separate companies only by the fact that Richard owned all of WWT and a portion of Air Routing.
1986 – WWT moved from the shared office space on Richmond Avenue to an office building four miles away on Briarpark Drive (in Houston), and took up a good portion of the 6th floor. About 10 years later, WWT moved their operations to the 7th floor, where the company continues to operate today.
1989 – The first version of dial-up service, WxPix, was released. Two short years later, WxPix was upgraded to AiRMET II.
1993 – AiRMET III made its debut – a dial-up program for our customers to access weather radar images, improved satellite, analyzed weather graphics, and forecasts. It installed with 5 ¼ inch floppy drives.
1994 – Air Routing International and WWT became entities of Air Routing Group.
1996 – WWT distributed its first emailed weather report.
If you enjoyed reading about Wilkens’ history, be sure to check out our previous post: Celebrating 40 Years: 10 Surprising Facts About WWT