Alex Calamia, Weekday Morning Meteorologist, WLTX

Alex Calamia, Weekday Morning Meteorologist, WLTX

Please include details about your educational background and what sparked your interest in atmospheric or related sciences.

I fell in love with the weather at a very young age. I remember how excited I was for my family's annual trip to Florida because the subtropical landscape and daily thunderstorms were so different from what I was used to in New York City. The window seat on the plane gave me the perfect view of the agitated cumulus clouds. As our altitude dropped, my anticipation rose. I wanted to know how something so peaceful could lead to the thrilling thunderstorms I enjoyed so much each evening.

This isn't to say I didn't have my share of inspirational weather in New York too! I was a very talkative kid and loved giving people the forecast. It was unusual at that age to be so passionate about something, so it was comforting to watch meteorologists on TV with the same passion I had for science and weather. I wanted to be just like them! I graduated with my B.S. in Meteorology from Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, and started my career in broadcast meteorology soon after.

What was your first job in the field and how did you end up in the job you are in now?

My first job out of college was as a freelance weather producer in New York City. In this role, I created the weather forecast and graphics for on-air talent. It was a great fit and I was able to stay close to home.

I knew if I wanted to be on-air, I'd have to start off working in a much smaller town far from home. I applied to probably a hundred jobs, and the few offers I received didn't feel like a good fit. But, it just takes one great offer to start your career, and that's how my story began. After months of searching, I accepted a job in the state where my passion for weather began, Florida!

I worked in Gainesville, FL for about two and a half years as a meteorologist and reporter. I had no prior reporting experience, but I embraced both positions. Reporting made me a better communicator and my environmental and gardening stories really set me apart. It led to my dream job as a morning meteorologist for WLTX in Columbia, SC where I forecast the weather and take care of our garden outside the studio!

What opportunities did you pursue that you knew would be beneficial to securing a job in the profession?

It's important for people interested in broadcast meteorology to find a way to get on camera and practice talking about their forecast. I was very fortunate because Rutgers has a fantastic program called "WeatherWatchers" that gives you the opportunity to get in front of the green screen the first semester of freshman year. It took my entire college career to help build my confidence on camera. I wouldn't have been successful in this industry without that program, but internships are important too.

I strongly encourage every college student interested in broadcasting to try at least one broadcast meteorology internship. I didn't learn about newsroom roles in my meteorology program, but my internship showed me how a newscast comes together. I also learned a lot from the wonderful meteorologists working at my internship. I would have felt overwhelmed walking into my first newsroom without internship experience.

What other courses/skills beyond the required math and science courses do you think would be the most helpful to individuals wanting a career in your profession?

I believe being successful in broadcast meteorology requires a very strong background in math and sciences, especially during severe weather situations. When bad weather threatens, it's important to break down the reasoning behind your forecast and give viewers the confidence they need to prepare. Viewers recognize a strong meteorology background when we're on TV analyzing the dangers behind the storms in real-time.

The most important skill to have is attention to detail. Words matter. When severe weather is happening, viewers are clinging to every single word. It's our job to stay calm under pressure. Even day-to-day, deadlines are tight in the news industry so time management is an important skill.

What is your typical day on the job like?

I'm a morning meteorologist and I'm on TV each weekday, but there's more to my job than what's seen on the screen. I'm responsible for taking care of our beautiful garden outside the studio. It's a fast-paced day, which is just the way I like it!

My day starts at 2:00 A.M. with breakfast and forecasting. I'll scan the comments and photos on our weather and garden Facebook groups to see if viewers shared anything that could help explain my forecast in a creative way or if I can generate some content for our newscast by answering their questions. Interacting with viewers is a very important part of my job, and I'm a big believer in providing a forecast that's filled with more than just numbers.

When I get into the studio, I quickly work on graphics. I have a short time to put everything together. I like to play newscasts from other parts of the company in the background so I can get ideas for my forecast and hear what's happening across the country.

When the sun rises, I'm watering, weeding, and taking photos of the garden outside the station to share on TV and social media. Sometimes I'm so short on time, I have to garden in my suit! I'll use this part of the day to create content for future newscasts and update our web pages with the latest forecast. The garden helps me talk about the daily forecast and even climate change!

What do you like most about your job? What is the most challenging thing about your job?

I'm a meteorologist by profession and a very active hobby gardener with hundreds of plants at home. I feel grateful I can share both these passions with people every day. I work for a company that sees the value in giving viewers something really unique they won't find anywhere else.

It's also incredible to meet the viewers that watch the show every morning. They remind me that I'm providing more than a forecast when they ask me their garden questions. Sometimes they give me garden advice, and I learn something new! It's a rewarding experience.

This job demands a lot of time. That's tough when you live far from your hometown. It's hard to explain to my friends and loved ones that I need to plan visits around hurricane season and rating periods. I have to go to bed very early to give myself energy for my busy mornings, and there's no guarantee there will be time for a quick lunch break to refuel.

Does your job allow for a good work/life balance? If not, why?

The work/life balance could be better. I've fallen asleep on the phone with friends and family because of my early shift. When you have a really enjoyable job, it's hard to separate work from the rest of your life, but it's important. I've learned to use my vacation days and to dedicate time to pursue hobbies that aren't related to my work.

Over the course of your career what is the most exciting thing that has happened to you?

The most exciting/terrifying moment in my career was covering Hurricane Irma. It was my first hurricane season as an on-air meteorologist, and I was working in North Florida which was spared the worst of the storm. However, it was a solid 20 hour day on the green screen and outside in the wind and rain. When I went home, it was the early afternoon the following day. I had no power or air conditioning, but I slept until the next morning. Storms are exciting at the moment, but I'll never forget how drained I was when it was over.

My first spring as a morning Meteorologist at WLTX was another career-defining moment. We had a major tornado outbreak in April 2020, the morning after Easter, and it was my first time leading wall-to-wall coverage. I never expected to see a tornado debris signature on the radar, and that morning I saw several. The sun was just starting to come up when the storms came to an end. We were all still working from home because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but we were allowed access back to the studio to cover these storms.

Is there anything you wish you had done differently in your career?

I think everything I've done has led me to where I am now so I don't have any regrets. However, I've missed out on plenty of family gatherings and big moments in life because of work. I wish I made more of an effort to take that time from work to enjoy those moments.

What are some "must haves" on a resume if a person wants to gain employment in your field?

The biggest must-have is on-camera experience. Everyone in the broadcast field needs to prove they can be comfortable on TV. A reel with a diverse montage of clips and a full weather forecast at the end is currently the industry standard. I think field reporting really sets meteorologists apart in this industry, and it's also important to prove that you can live up to the "station scientist" role. Newsrooms rely on meteorologists to be the science expert. I think a degree in meteorology helps prove your expertise and having samples of videos and writing that prove you can talk about scientific topics is important for newsrooms to see.