It's been more than a year, thanks to COVID, but this weekend Chief Meteorologist Rob Perillo finally received an award that, for him, brings things "full circle."
Years ago, a 10-year-old Rob would listen to the weather radio every morning and watch a flashy and flamboyant weatherman on Good Morning America. That man, John Coleman, was the first meteorologist to use chroma key, back in 1974.
"John was the guy I used to watch in the mornings as a kid, listening to my NOAA weather radio and eating my Captain Crunch...and when John's segment on GMA with David Hartman and Joan Lundon came on, everything stopped for me and I was glued to the set," Perillo says. "His presentations revolutionized the business. He founded the Weather Channel. Getting an award in his name is just surreal."
Coleman forecasted weather on air until he retired in 2014 from KUSI-TV in San Diego. He died in January 2018. The National Tropical Weather Conference now presents an award in his honor every year to recognize outstanding service by a broadcast meteorologist.
"I've been doing weather in the hurricane zone since the mid 80s," Perillo says. "I've been doing this a long time, and the NTWC is so wonderful, brings everyone in the tropical world together. And it's nice to be recognized by your colleagues. It's really kind of full circle."
Although he's happy to get the award, Perillo is hoping someone in another area of the country gets it next year. This year's forecast is for 19 storms, nine hurricanes and four major hurricanes.
"The numbers are a little bit elevated. But here on the Gulf Coast, no matter what the forecast is, we have to be on our toes," Perillo says. "I'm hoping that somebody else wins this award - outside of Louisiana - next year, because I don't want to see another busy hurricane season."
Perillo says that Coleman is an inspiration for broadcast meteorologists because he brought in the showmanship that so many folks appreciate in their weather.
"Meteorology, to this day, is a combo of hard core science, and there's experience, you can't underestimate that. But there's intuition as well. Every day we're going in and looking at models," he says. "It's kind of an art. It's a balance of science and art, and John brought it to the next level by being a personality and someone you wanted to watch every day to see what he was going to say. He was a guy you invited into your home every day."
Perillo wasn't initially attracted to the broadcast side of weather, but Coleman "showed what you could achieve," he says.
Perillo accepted his award this past weekend at the National Tropical Weather Conference in South Padre Island, Texas. The conference is held (unless there's a pandemic) annually and brings together the experts in hurricane prediction and preparedness.
When he was notified of the award back in 2020, he wrote this statement:
"I'm shocked, humbled and honored that my colleagues have voted to give me this prestigious award...I am truly grateful for just having the opportunity to be a broadcast meteorologist for an area I love, and for a community I am rooted in.
Broadcast meteorologists, as I have learned over the decades, become community advocates and take personally how best to serve our consumers of critical weather and science information that impact our lives. We try to aspire to the National Weather Service mantra "to protect life and property"...and hopefully we have all learned something more about weather, hurricanes, climate and our environment along the way.
As a kid, John Coleman was my weather hero...he was a trailblazer in TV weather presentation and the founder of the Weather Channel...he, along with my parents, helped foster my love of meteorology...but I thought that I could never be an on-air meteorologist...all I wanted to do was to study weather and be a forecaster.
To receive an award bearing John's namesake is just incredible...and still, I feel I don't deserve this!
You never know the road you will ultimately travel...it can be a circuitous route...but it's been more like an adventurous journey of continuous learning.
I want to thank my colleagues and mentors that have brought me along the way, including Dr. Gene Chermack, Mike Lyons WPBF, Mark Scirto, Dick Faurot, Alex Garcia, Timoteo Schmidt, Ed Piotrowski, Tim Heller, Katy Morgan, Joshua Marthers, Carlos A. Robles, Kristen Van Dyke, Dr Bill Gray, Dr. Philip Klotzbach, Max Mayfield and so many, many more that I stay in touch with at the National Tropical Weather and American Meteorological Society conferences...all great examples of what we should be in the broadcast, tropical and research meteorological enterprises.
And all of which have become true life-long friends along the way...thank you for sharing your knowledge, guidance, creativity and friendship!
And thanks to KATC for my employment, but also fostering continuing education and allowing me to stay active in attending conferences, symposiums and research.
And finally I thank my wife and kids...as many of you know, you're nothing without their love and support...they have sacrificed much to put up with me and our business!
To everyone above and to the National Tropical Weather Conference I am forever in your debt for your support and recognition, and am truly humbled."