We know him even though most of us don’t know him, because we’ve seen him even though most of us have never actually seen him, because he’s in our homes all the time, even though most of us have ever extended an invitation.
Therefore, as everyone’s weatherman, Rob Perillo pushes his shopping cart down the produce aisle, today’s forecast calls a partially elongated Walmart run with a 90-percent chance of recognition.
“Think about it,” Perillo says. “I’ve been in living rooms throughout Acadiana for a quarter-century now. How lucky is that? That’s awesome. They’re complete strangers, but they’re not, because we don’t speak like strangers, we speak like friends. They invite me to crawfish boils. And then my wife and kids will say, ‘Do you know that person?’ And no, I don’t.
“So it’s an honor, especially in a business where there’s a lot of turnover and pressure,” Perillo says. “But I’ve gotten to be here. Every tropical storm. Every hurricane. Every meteorological event. I’ve been here. And for a people-person like me, it doesn’t get any more special than Acadiana.”
Easily one of the most trusted and second-guessed men in Cajun Country (hey, it comes with the job description, he says) Perillo has been the region’s weather authority for more than a generation, working at both major Lafayette TV news stations during his tenure. As the current chief meteorologist at KATC-3, Perillo is the most decorated meteorologist in Louisiana, hauling in close to two dozen Associated Press awards, which includes distinctions for “Best Weathercast” and “Breaking Weather.”
And at no other time of the year does Perillo shine as much as he does in August and September – the height of Gulf hurricane season. Leaned upon to provide accurate and up-to-date information flying in from multiple angles and sources, Perillo’s disciplined pre-storm routine – which typically involves truckloads of caffeine and thimbles of sleep – ensures he’s ready for whatever Mother Nature tosses his direction.
“I’ve done more than 100 tropical storms, so you don’t remember all of them,” Perillo said in June 2015. “Like this past one, Bill. I won’t remember Bill. I’ve probably done some Bills before. But there are some you just don’t forget, and for me, that first one that left a mark on me was Hurricane Andrew, because I couldn’t sleep.
“I stayed up for 44 hours straight,” Perillo recalls. “And I vividly recall every one of those hours.”
A natural storyteller, Perillo’s tales surrounding notorious storms like Rita, Katrina, Lili and Gustav are equally as entertaining, fair doses of terrifying and triumphant. In each retelling, Perillo drips heavy amounts of praise on colleague Dave Baker, the KATC engineering, reporting and production teams, as well as mentor Dick Faurot – Lafayette’s Rob Perillo before Rob Perillo.
“Dick was a weather nerd first and a broadcaster second, and I was like, ‘That’s what I want to be!’” Perillo recalls. “I was actually looking at old tapes a little while back, and these are from 15 to 20 years ago, and the New York accent is much more pronounced. So that’s changed for sure. The energy and delivery is a little different. But one thing Faurot told me – and I try to live it to this day – is be the same person on-air as you are off-air and you’ll be very successful in that business.
“And, it’s worked,” Perillo says. “The viewers respond to that, so when they see me in public, they see the same guy they’ve seen on TV. It’s not a character. It’s just me.”
The manifestation of Perillo’s love affair with the weather was really rooted in his family’s move out of the Bronx and into a more suburban section of downstate New York while he was still in grade school. He nailed his initial (non-airing) forecast, correctly predicting a snow day. It was his first taste of stardom, he says tongue-in-cheek.
From there, Rob purposely attended college in an area traditionally pummeled by lake-effect snowfalls, later landing a job as an Emergency Planning Meteorologist for local nuclear power plants. Intrigued by different domestic weather phenomenon, Rob interviewed with a firm in Houston, cramming on tropical weather the entire flight down south. It worked. Perillo served as a Marine and Industrial Meteorologist for Wilkens Weather Technologies and also as an Aviation Forecaster for Air Routing International before landing on-camera in Lafayette.
What once was an 18-month contract without much of a guarantee has blossomed into a unique relationship Perillo both cherishes and takes quite seriously as the busy part of his calendar beckons.
“It’s more adrenaline than anything else,” Perillo says of hurricane season. “At first, it’s almost youthful excitement. You’re hoping it comes close enough to us so we can be involved. But 30 years later, when you have a house and a bunch of things you don’t wanna lose your perspective changes.
“The rush is still there, though,” Perillo says. “The information coming in and out of my realm is constant, and it just seems each storm gets crazier and crazier.”
To see more of Rob Perillo, tune in to KATC or visit their website at KATC.com