Dave Dahl is well known in thousands of homes throughout the Twin Cities metropolitan area as a popular meteorologist for KSTP-TV. But once his workday is over and he leaves the television station, there is only one home on his mind—the one in Afton where he and his family have lived for the past 12 years. Dahl recently took some time from his busy schedule to talk to St. Croix Valley Magazine about the world of meteorology and what he and his family think about living in the Valley. (Spoiler alert: They like it. A lot.)
An Eye on the Weather
Dahl has watched the weather at KSTP-TV for the past 38 years, so he’s knowledgeable about the seasons in Minnesota and how unpredictable they can be, especially in the spring and fall. “The transition seasons are the most difficult to predict weather,” Dahl says. “There can be big changes in temperature in just a short time, and it can be hard to see that coming.”
It’s not just what’s happening in the sky overhead that affects the weather, particularly in an area like the St. Croix Valley. “People often want to know when the first frost is going to happen,” Dahl says. “But there’s such a variety of landscapes out here. The valley can stay warmer longer than areas that are more inland, because the river water stays warm longer. In the summer, the river remains cool longer.”
Dahl also notes that a state like Minnesota can be more challenging for developing forecasts because it is located so far from an ocean. “The weather here changes so dramatically,” he says. “That’s why we do our forecasts in pencil. Landlocked states are more unpredictable. The ocean keeps weather more consistent.”
But as unpredictable as it is, forecasting the weather has improved over the decades with advancements in technology. “There have been huge changes in weather technology,” Dahl says. “When I started, I drew temps and low and high pressure systems on a plexiglass map.” He says the changes have been beneficial, both in the actual forecasting and the delivery of weather news, and have also helped viewers become more informed.
“Most people can now understand what radar is telling us,” Dahl says. “We’ve really been able to help the public become more aware of the weather. There are lots of weather apps now, all using the same radar, and we can reach people wherever they are. Maybe they’re inside somewhere and can’t hear sirens, but they can get a warning on their phone. It really helps us do our job, and it helps us keep people safe.”
What’s more, the public is actively engaged in weather today. “Public involvement is phenomenal,” Dahl says. “Reporters can only get so far. But when viewers send us photos and video clips, we can see proof of things like outstate tornadoes. It helps us verify what we see on radar, and verify to the public what’s just happened.” It’s a two-way relationship, in which live television is still an asset, even in the digital age.
People want to see it explained, Dahl says. “We give them context.” There’s a big difference between seeing a stark warning on a phone app and hearing someone with extensive experience—and the ability to stay calm—explain it to you on TV. People want more of a personal connection during times of turbulent weather than they’ll get from just an app. Dahl says the combination of digital technology with the updated TV technology gives weather watchers the best of both worlds.
Even if the weather can still be unpredictable, Dahl is a fan of the changing Minnesota seasons. “The weather here is spectacular, especially in the fall,” he says. “I have a boat on the St. Croix River. The temps are great in autumn, the bugs die off and the colors are beautiful.”
Dedicated to Kids and Community
Weather isn’t the most important thing he enjoys about life in the Valley, though. “We moved here 12 years ago and our kids started at Afton-Lakeland elementary schools,” Dahl says. “We were really impressed with the school.” Over the years, he has donated time at his kids’ schools, volunteering at carnivals or giving presentations to classes about weather, something he loves to do (and has done in other communities as well). “That’s one of the most rewarding things I do,” Dahl says. “I’ve talked to thousands of kids. They’ve warmed me with their questions. Weather is interesting to them because it’s a big part of their daily lives. What are they going to wear in the morning? Will recess be inside or outside?”
He says he gets as much out of these presentations as the kids do, including seeing how weather knowledge is becoming more sophisticated at a younger age. “Kids now are so much more aware, and are learning so fast,” Dahl says. “It keeps me young and amazes me, what these students ask. It helps me more than the kids, I think.”
He’s also enthusiastic about the St. Croix Valley community. “People in this community are so involved,” Dahl says. “They really come out for fundraisers and events. They’re great at helping others, whether it’s through donations, volunteering or industry coming together.”
He knows about this dedication first-hand. For several years, he worked at a fall fundraiser for United Way with Sam and Carlos Leon, owners of Stillwater’s Acapulco Restaurant. He’s also been involved with Valley Outreach, the local food shelf and emergency services provider, including its annual Feed the Valley fall fundraiser on October 23.
Dahl’s family also enjoys the beauty of the area, and all the amenities it offers. “Boating on the St. Croix is fantastic. The parks are wonderful. Kinnickinnic Park, [Willow River State Park] with the waterfall and our phenomenal biking system,” Dahl says. “My wife and I ride motorcycles, and we’re amazed at how many paths there are for us to explore. We don’t have to repeat the same roads all of the time.”
It’s clear that Dahl and his family have thoroughly embraced life in the St. Croix Valley and will keep an eye on its weather for a long time to come.
(Dave Dahl often visits his children’s school; one visit aired on the local evening news.)