PROFile: Weather buff Peter Planamente forecasts a striking final semester at Rowan

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Peter Planamente wants YOU to know that weather and climate are not the same thing.

“People love to argue about this over social media,” he said of the nuances between the two terms. “People are affected by the weather every day of their lives, no matter where you live, so why not learn about it and understand why these things are happening?”

A senior journalism major, Planamente is something of a legend in the Whit’s offices. Last year, he’d begun the first iteration of the “Whit Weekly Recap”, an online video series where he summarized Rowan’s weekly
news in a few short minutes. Of course, a weather update was also included. Part of his prestige comes from his good nature and on-camera gaffs – he couldn’t keep a straight face when discussing the “Vagina Monologues”, and had apparently never heard the word “Galapagos” said out loud before. But an equal, if not larger, part of Planamente’s persona is his eccentric devotion to becoming an on-camera weatherman.

“I stayed interested in the weather because there is always something new to learn and always a new storm to track,” he explained. “Also, it is fun posting about the weather on social media and getting your message out there. My Twitter goes through the roof whenever we get severe weather.”

That’s another phrase that floats around the Whit’s offices – that following Planamente’s Twitter account (@plana_journ) will “save your life” by reminding you to carry an umbrella before a big storm hits.

Planamente stands in front of the Channel 10 weather news van. – Photo courtesy of Peter Planamente

Social media clout isn’t why Planamente first got interested in weather reporting, though. First-hand experience of the destructive potential of storms was enough to convince him that it was worthwhile to learn how to better communicate about weather patterns. A storm in 2008 was severe enough to pique Planamente’s curiosity, and he hasn’t gone back since.

“We had a day full of thunderstorms with the worst hailstorm I have ever seen,” he said. “My yard was covered like we had a snowstorm. Then, a tree was uprooted in my cousin’s yard that smashed their shed and missed their house by inches. I think that day really traumatized me, so I wanted to be prepared and ready for the next big storm.”

Luckily for Planamente, a supportive network has always provided encouragement for his goals. In sixth grade, he made a best friend who was “even crazier” than he was about the weather. Together, they’ve motivated one another to learn more about, and stay interested in, the topic.

“We have always been supportive of each other, no matter what,” he said. “I mean, it is no joke that we were on Skype one time at 6 a.m. during a tornado warning or when he tries waking me up during a storm by blasting me with 100 Facebook messages. Yeah, we are that crazy.”

However, he has also found a receptive audience in people who wouldn’t normally care too much about the topic.

“I can’t even tell you how many of my friends, family members and professors have asked me about the weather,” he said. “Everyone thinks of me as their own personal weatherman, where you can reach out to me at any time. Let’s be real, I had a friend text me at 3 a.m. to ask if their house will blow away.”

A green screen is one of the tools used to broadcast weather information. – Photo courtesy of Peter Planamente

Planamente doesn’t know what he would do if he decided not to become a weatherman. Studying journalism at Rowan has given him a stepping stone from which to begin his career. He had always liked writing since he was a kid, but the honesty of professors about the state of the industry has helped contextualize the path he will need to take to get there.

“My very first class at Rowan, Professor Kelley told us that we’ll be lucky if we make $20,000 our first year as a reporter,” he said. “That blew my mind right off the bat. This field is cut-throat, the salary stinks, the hours are terrible, but since I am passionate about it, I try to overlook that.”

Overall, Planamente believes that his strengths are what make him different from the typical journalism student.

“I have an out-of-the-ordinary mix of hobbies that people don’t typically have an interest in. Everything kind of relates to each other. Snapping pictures of the sky or a Sears going out of business helps make my photography skills better. Journalism helps me come out of my comfort zone and talk with strangers. I guess you can say that I’m unique, but I love when my friends show interest in my weird hobbies.”

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