My cell phone was ringing at 10:43 p.m. on Friday night with engineer Robert Wright listed as the caller. Given the time and since Wright and I generally talk about serious things, I knew the call was not going to be good news.

To say I was shocked would not be accurate since I had numerous discussions over the years with Rocco about his health and how Agent Orange impacted him. However, I was surprised since I had just received one of Rocco’s Tropical updates on June 17. When Leanne Calaci called on Saturday morning, she told me Rocco just finished a deposition earlier Friday. One reminder from this post is to live life fully while we can. Rocco certainly did.

Donice Krueger and I were talking about Rocco into the wee hours of the morning. She was laughing that when she first met Rocco, he had a ponytail. I always kept thinking that a jury and insurance company attorneys would think of him as the “hippy dippy” weatherman. Despite this appearance, he was anything other than “hippy dippy.”

When it came to meteorology, Rocco was dead serious. He expected a lot from himself and his colleagues to portray accurate forecasts and opinions about the weather.

One aspect of his concerns for the meteorology profession was his severe criticism of television meteorologists, whom Rocco believed were wrongly inciting the public into needless fear about severe weather merely to gain monetary compensation based on viewership. His very last Tropical Update demonstrated this recurrent theme:

If you come across a media outlet on TV or the Internet that is calling for doom and destruction, just go to another channel or website. There are no tropical threats that will become significant over the next 2 weeks that I haven’t covered.

Rocco would always double-check his results and then stick with them no matter what. We had a case in Arizona where the insurance company meteorologist surprisingly had a higher wind speed than Rocco’s calculation, and the higher wind speed finding was helpful to our case. When I pointed this out to Rocco, he seemed skeptical but agreed to re-check his calculations. His finding was that he understood what and why the other meteorologist was wrong and said, ‘Chip, this dummy intentionally looked at the wrong data to come up with a lower wind speed but messed up that calculation as well.’ Rocco stuck with his lower calculation, knowing it would hurt my client’s case.

Rocco was an expert I trusted. A second lesson from this post is to stick with serious people who truly know their business and will tell you like it is, whether you like hearing what they have to say or not.

Rocco also challenged the status quo. He wrote a guest blog in 2009, “Is The Saffir-Simpson Scale Still Relevant?” where he stated:

Since the release of the Saffir-Simpson Scale in the late 1960’s, it has been considered the ‘standard’ in how hurricanes have been categorized. It is my personal opinion that the Saffir-Simpson Scale is no longer relevant due to new technologies and the fact that the estimated levels of destruction rarely match the actual destruction observed from hurricanes over the past decade.

The use of the Saffir-Simpson Scale, along with other meteorological ‘beliefs’, must be put aside and replaced by factual and verifiable research.

It is a shame that the United States doesn’t have a better system of collecting meteorological data to provide better resolution for numerical models in forecasting hurricanes. It’s a shame that the Saffir-Simpson Scale is used blindly by various agencies to rationalize their decisions in wake of a hurricane.

Everybody involved with hurricane losses should read his guest post, Tornadoes, Tornadoes, Tornadoes, where he discussed and showed a graphic about tornadoes occurring during hurricanes.  He stated in part:

Tornadoes are an inherent threat associated with any tropical cyclone. Without going into a bunch of technical mumbo-jumbo, tornadic activity associated with hurricanes and tropical storms are dynamically different than tornadoes we think of in the Great Plains, Midwest or parts of the Southeast. It’s similar to the comparison between a chocolate bar and sour gummies…both are candy, but very different.

There was a very personable part of Rocco, which started with his name. Sort of like when I hear my dear colleague Javier Delgado’s name, which gets me to greet him with a loud “Javier!” Rocco had the same impact on me. I just loved his first name and the anticipation of a discussion with him, so I greeted him the same way— “Rocco!” followed by a warm hug.

We once asked Rocco to provide a presentation at a seminar we hosted in Las Vegas. He asked for one thing in return: a mini-Elvis Presley to officiate his renewed marriage vows with Leanne. Donice called all over Las Vegas only to learn that all the mini-Elvis’ were at the Rio Olympics. The picture above is the Elvis Presley who officiated those renewal vows. A third lesson is to always look for the fun and enjoyment of life with the people you love when those opportunities arise.

Leanne and Rocco Calaci following their renewal vows in Vegas

One recurrent thought I have while thinking of Rocco is of the late Jean Niven, who I noted in Jean Niven Was a Champion for Policyholders, Beloved by Many For Her Unselfish Help and Optimism, and My Dear Friend. Jean worked with the expert witnesses we hired, including Rocco. When Jean moved to the Florida Panhandle, she and Rocco became neighbors and good friends. The three of us would often discuss case facts and changes in the science of weather till late at night.

After Jean’s passing, Rocco and I would speak sadly about Jean and how special she was. Now, I find myself thinking about the two of them. They were true professionals and always a pleasure to be with. I miss both of them and certainly will think of them, and Rocco’s wife Leanne, anytime an Elvis impersonation is made.

Thought For The Day 

The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched. They must be felt with the heart. And one of those things is the memory of a good friend.
— Helen Keller