River Falls High School tenth grader Michael Soward got the surprise of his life Friday, Dec. 8, when assistant principal Nic Been arranged for KSTP meteorologist Dave Dahl to come meet Soward at RFHS.
"I had no idea that he was even going to come at all!" Soward said.
Soward was doing his weekly "Weatherful Weekend" report over the school intercom that Friday. He'd just finished when Dave Dahl walked in, and said, "Michael I'm so proud of you." He told Soward he was honored to be there, and told him he'd done a great job with the weather.
Soward, an aspiring meteorologist, said he looks up to Dahl. He said there was "not even a dry eye visible" in the office during Dahl's visit.
"The people in the office were just holding their phones and they were going like this," Soward said, miming wiping at his eyes. "It was just amazing that was, I think, the most gifted thing that's ever happened in my life. I don't think I could ask for anything else but that."
Soward said he's been interested in meteorology since he was in second grade and a severe storm hit his home. Severe enough, he said, that the National Weather Service had issued a tornado warning. He said the wind was howling while he and his family waited in the basement, until his dad went back up stairs to look around and said it was safe to come up.
"I looked around and there was damage everywhere," Soward said.
In addition to a "huge" tree that came down, Soward said, a trampoline had also been blown two fields over.
"I got so frightened because there was so much lighting, so much thunder," Soward said. "I had so much anxiety, I started panicking."
So, he got onto his computer and his dad's phone and started looking up videos of lighting, thunderstorms, and what caused them.
"From that day on, I've always been admiring weather," Soward said.
River Falls School District Liaison Officer Chris Gottfredsen noticed Soward's aptitude for weather reporting when he was a middle schooler.
"For years, almost daily I would get a weather report from Michael when he was attending Meyer Middle School," Gottfredsen said. "This continued after he was attending the high school. One day I envisioned Michael giving the weather report to all students at the high school via intercom announcements. I asked Michael if he would be interested and after he showed enthusiasm toward the idea."
Gottfredsen then went to Been with the idea, who set it up. Soward started doing the weather every Friday last year, and has kept it up this year as well. He said he'd like to continue with his "Weatherful Weekend" report through high school.
Been said it was Principal Kit Luedtke who suggested trying to connect Soward with Dahl.
"So I started to make some contacts with KSTP and thankfully it all came together for Michael and his family," Been said. "Michael is a very kind student, passionate about the weather, and has grown in his ability to effectively communicate with over 1100 people! I am very proud to have many students like Michael at RFHS."
Said Rick Hansen, one of Soward's teachers, "Michael feels comfortable giving the weather report without a written prompt. His communication with the weekly weather has purpose and he is proud to give the report to the school. I'm proud of Michael having the courage to announce the weather to the school on Fridays."
Soward says that when he starts to wonder why he's giving the weather report in an age where everyone has the weather at their fingertips, thanks to cell phones, he thinks: "You could actually be saving a few lives," he said. "You're informing people, saying this is going to come your way."
Soward said he wants to be the person people tune into to get more information when they know there's a storm.
When he gives the weather on the intercom, he always gives any weather alerts first, before the rest of the weather report.
Soward said he hopes to be a TV meteorologist when he's finished with school. He plans to go to college to study meteorology.
Someday, he said, he'd like to work for 5 Eyewitness News, like Dave Dahl.
Meanwhile, Soward will do his best to take some advice he said he got from Dahl, and "just keep on being a good meteorologist."
A video of Dahl meeting Soward can be seen on the River Falls School District Facebook Page.
To see a video of one of Soward's weather reports, visit riverfallsjournal.com.