The thrill of the chase

Dale Kaminski pauses to take a selfie with a storm near Merna on June 8, 2020.

Dale Kaminski pauses to take a selfie with a storm near Merna on June 8, 2020.

Schuyler native Dale Kaminski says he loves to watch severe weather. So much, that, he’s willing to travel hundreds of miles and across state lines to observe storms. Kaminski is a full-time multimedia journalist/storm chaser for SVL Media.

In the past 34 years, he’s observed thousands of storms. The self-taught chaser got his start by attending training classes and receiving certification in the 1990s.

“I used these opportunities to meet others that loved to watch severe weather,” Kaminski said. “Meeting others with the same passion was key into learning this trade.”
He says he also “had my nose deep into books for years.”

“I absorbed as much as I could from books,” Kaminski said. “Believe me when I say I had ample time in front of a stack of books on the subjects of severe weather as I was growing up.”
Kaminski and his family moved from Sidney to Schuyler in 1973. His father worked for Union Pacific Railroad and his mother was a librarian.

“I was about 6 or 7 when my mother showed me a picture of a funnel cloud right over our house in 1972,” he said. “It would be my driving factor for storm spotting and storm chasing for years to come.”

Kaminski’s father also had Union Pacific calendars in the home that featured photographs of Nebraska storms.

When Kaminski started storm chasing, it was a hobby. He only watched storms near his current town of residence, Kearney.

“Now, I chase about anywhere in Tornado Alley,” he said. “Since I do this full-time, every opportunity that presents itself within about an 8-hour drive in any direction I will go to.”

“And wife permitting,” he added.

A tornado dances across the plains near Wray, Colorado, on May 7, 2016. Photo by Dale Kaminski.

A tornado dances across the plains near Wray, Colorado, on May 7, 2016. Photo by Dale Kaminski.

Kaminski says that one of his most personal and best experiences storm chasing was the May 7, 2016, tornado in Wray, Colorado.

“It had this incredible photogenic structure and was out in the open,” he recalled. “It didn’t do much damage to livestock, crops, or the human element.”

If an individual is interested in learning more about life as a storm chaser, Kaminski recommends that they find groups that share the same passion.

“Attend the storm spotter meetings held by your local National Weather Service,” he said. “It is a great way to meet others and learn the basics. Networking with the people you meet here is priceless.”

It’s also beneficial to ask local chaser groups if you can ride along and learn from them.

However, this advice comes with a heavy warning.

“It takes a special breed of people to storm chase,” Kaminski cautioned. “It is not for the faint of heart. Just like an athlete or a specialist in a field of study, one must be prepared and knowledgeable of what to expect. Safety first, every time, no exceptions.”

Patience also sets apart the rookies from the seasoned chasers.

“Traveling for six hours in one direction for a cloud that only lasts a few minutes, then traveling back six hours can be the norm for what we do,” he said. “But the reward for what you witness can be surreal when all the elements come into play.”

 

July 2020

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