Sure, it’s easy to love Dave Dahl now, when the weather is warm and the sun is shining. But being a meteorologist in Minnesota means that sometimes you have to deliver bad news. And often, you’re the one who takes the blame.
“Especially in the winter, people tell me, ‘Do your job! Fix this weather,’” Dahl said. “We get the heat and humidity in the summer and the cold and snow in the winter. But the reason to live here is because of what I call our ‘theater of seasons.’ To me, Minnesota is one of the greatest spots in the world to get a variety of weather situations. Honestly, I’d be bored doing weather in Los Angeles.”
If you think you’ve been watching Dahl, 65, deliver weather news — good and bad — for quite a while now, you’re right. Next month, he’ll celebrate 42 years with KSTP-TV. He delivers his weather forecasts on 5 Eyewitness News weeknights at 5, 6, 6:30 and 10 p.m. He also appears weekdays on KS95’s morning and afternoon shows.
Recognize that voice?
As well known as his face has become, Dahl said it’s his voice most people usually recognize first.
“I get recognized almost every day, but people are ‘Minnesota Nice’ about it and will wait until I’m done eating at a restaurant or until I’m getting ready to leave before they come up to me,” he said. “It was a harder transition for my older kids to get used to me getting recognized in public, but the younger ones are used to it by now.”
Speaking of kids, Dahl is a father of seven children and grandfather to six grandchildren. His children range from middle-aged to pre-teen — Ali, 46; Andy, 44; Kayla, 26; Allyssa, 25; Brittani, 24; Jace, 17; and Jax Anna, 11.
Time to downsize
With his older kids launched and just the younger ones at home, Dahl and his wife of 17 years, Julie, have downsized from their longtime 15-acre property in Afton. They’re now living in downtown Stillwater, in a building that was erected as a church in 1884 and has been converted to condominiums.
“I was tired of cutting the grass and plowing the driveway,” he said. “This building is beautiful and still feels like
a church on the inside, in some ways. We have a big pew in the common hallway, and a 12-foot-diameter stained-glass window in our living room. It faces north, and when it lights up in the afternoon, it’s spectacular.”
Dahl grew up in Circle Pines, Minnesota. His older brother, Marshall, who now lives in Florida, said they’ve always been close.
“In our younger days, we would play childhood games and laugh, laugh, laugh until our stomachs hurt,” he said. “When Dave was in high school and played sports, we’d go to all his games, both home and away.”
Dahl showed an early interest in weather.
“I started doing weather forecasts when I was a little kid, from age 4 or 5, delivering the forecasts to my mom,” he said.
It took a calamitous weather event to seal his fate as a future meteorologist.
“When I was 10 years old, we had the largest outbreak of tornadoes ever to hit the metro area — six in all. It had a huge impact on my life. I was afraid of storms then and thought I was going to die. The tornado missed our home only by a quarter mile. From then on, I wanted to more accurately predict the weather so people would not be hurt. Now, I live and breathe weather of all kinds.”
Joe Schmit, KSTP-TV’s sports director, has worked with Dahl for more than 31 years.
“There’s a reason Dave has been doing the weather for so long — he’s a pro,” he said. “You don’t survive in this business or this market unless you are professional on and off the air. Just like I get excited covering a major sporting event, Dave gets excited when bad weather is coming in. He feels a huge responsibility to the audience and he really wants to make sure his forecast is correct.”
Schmit and Dahl have accumulated quite a few stories working together in the public eye for three decades, but Schmit shared one memory: “We used to have a hair salon in the KSTP building, and the stylist talked Dave into getting a perm. He loved it. He thought it was hip,” Schmit said. “He did the 6 p.m. news that night with his new ‘do.’ Management saw him on air and made him change it by the 10 p.m. news. I would pay $1,000 to have a tape of that show.”
While Dahl is a well-known broadcaster, he also sees himself as an educator. Over the years, he’s made hundreds of presentations at area schools.
“I’ve promoted fun, hands-on science experiences by showing how tornadoes form, how lightning forms or how barometric pressure works,” he said. “I think kids are getting much smarter than they used to be, and they’re learning much faster.”
Despite that, there are still a few kids in any class who are terrified of storms.
“I let them know I used to be afraid, too,” he said. “I hope that by learning more, they can have respect, not fear, for the weather.”
Dahl is frequently is asked to make appearances at charity events.
“My oldest daughter had open-heart surgery when she was a little over 2 years old, so two of my favorites are the American Heart Association and the Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota,” he said. “I participate in the Down Syndrome Association of Minnesota’s annual walk, Step Up for Down Syndrome. It brings a smile to my face and is one of my biggest pleasures.” (This year’s walk will be Sept. 22 at Como Park in St. Paul.)
He’s also involved with the American Diabetes Association and the Highland Friendship Club, which offers people with disabilities the chance to make new friends, connect with the community and learn life skills.
In his rare moments of free time, Dahl and his family enjoy spending time on the St. Croix River in their 41-foot cruiser.
“It’s a great waterway,” he said. “Our boat is an express yacht that can sleep six to eight, and the kids love that they have their own bedrooms.”
When the children aren’t around, Dahl and his wife enjoy riding their custom-made Harley-Davidson motorcycles.
Hers is all pink and chrome and custom-painted with clouds. His is a chopper version with a tornado painted on the gas tank and lightning and clouds on the fenders.
“They don’t usually make choppers, but they made one for me,” he said.
Tips for staying safe during a tornado
“It’s good to respect the weather, not fear it. Fear leads to panic, and panic is not safe,” said Minnesota meteorologist Dave Dahl. “In the event of a tornado or severe storm, don’t run — you don’t want to fall — but walk quickly to a safe spot.”
Remember, Dahl said, there’s always a safe place to be:
At home: Go to the basement, if possible. Get under a table, workbench or sturdy furniture to shield yourself from falling debris.
With no basement: Go to an interior closet, bathroom or interior hall. Get under something sturdy or cover yourself with blankets. Stay away from windows.
In a car: Get out of the vehicle and look for a sturdy shelter or lie down in a ditch. Avoid bridges, since they can act as wind tunnels.
Julie Kendrick is a contributing writer for many local and national publications. She lives in Minneapolis. Follow her on Twitter @KendrickWorks.