Longtime KATV-TV meteorologist Ned Perme announced his retirement Tuesday after 40 years on the air, the Little Rock ABC affiliate said.
Perme, who began his broadcast career in 1977 in Alabama, joined the KATV weather team as the chief meteorologist in 1984 and has served at the position for 34 years, according to a news release. It was not immediately clear when Perme would sign off the air.
In a statement, Perme referred to his career as a "dream come true."
“For more than three decades, Arkansans have invited me into their homes each evening and have trusted me as their weatherman," he said. "It has truly been a privilege, and I cherish my relationship with the viewers. But all good things must come to an end, and I’ve decided that it’s time for me to sign off for the last time.”
Perme has overseen the station’s coverage of severe weather events for 34 years, including the 2008 tornado that killed 13 as it made its way through north-central Arkansas on Super Tuesday, the 2010 Little Missouri River flash flood at the Albert Pike Recreational Area that killed 20 people, and the 2014 tornado that hit Mayflower and Vilonia and was responsible for 16 fatalities in the state.
That work helped him earn 14 Best Weathercast awards given by The Associated Press.
"He didn’t like severe weather because of the damage and destruction it did,” KATV News Director Nick Genty said. "He always wanted to make sure he was out there protecting people and that he was giving them the opportunity to find shelter."
The weather event Perme said he’ll remember the most is the state’s largest tornado outbreak on Jan. 21 1999 — a day when 57 recorded tornadoes touched down in Arkansas.
"I was on the air by myself for many, many hours. It was a very long day,” Perme said. "You don’t even think about the end. You just have to keep going. You have to get in the moment and get through it one minute and one hour at a time.”
Perme said technological advances have played an important role in helping him guide Arkansans through severe weather. With improved weather radar, TV meteorologists can show viewers where storms are located in relation to where they live.
That technology helped the KATV weather team warn residents in Mayflower and Vilonia more than 30 minutes before an EF-4 tornado hit their towns in April 2014, he said.
“When I first came here, there was barely any technology, barely even radar,” Perme said. “Technology just started to advance slowly. It was a learning curve that we just had to deal with, and we’re still doing it today.”
The weatherman — who is also known for his tailgating segments before high school football games and for writing the song “Christmastime in Arkansas” — does not know when his last day will be, but he is sure he will be staying in Little Rock after his retirement.
"I love it here. That’s the reason I stayed for so long,” he said. "I had the opportunity to move to bigger markets when I was younger, but if I did that, I’d probably be doing something that I hate.
"Channel 7 has been a remarkable place to work, and I had the opportunity to help build a dominant weather team. You all will be in great hands once I leave."
Perme leaves behind fellow weather team meteorologists Todd Yakoubian, Melinda Mayo and Barry Brandt. Genty said it is not immediately clear who will replace him as chief meteorologist or if the position will be filled internally.
"He’s going to be tough to replace,” Genty said. "You don’t replace a legend like that."
The news director added that Perme's legacy "spans generations."
“He completes his career as the state’s most experienced television meteorologist and one of Arkansas’ most beloved TV personalities," he said. "While we are sad to see him go, we are excited that he’ll be able to spend more time playing music and spending time with his grandchildren. Job well done, Ned.”