A remarkable childhood experience was the catalyst for a remarkable career for Dan Skoff, chief meteorologist at KNWA/FOX24 in Fayetteville. When he was about eight years old, a tornado passed within a quarter mile of his childhood home in Brookfield, Wisconsin.

 

“I just remember the whole experience as a kid with the sky turning green and it getting dead quiet and the tornado sirens going off,” he said. “We ran down to the basement, and I was still looking out the window as this tornado was coming, and I saw all the leaves on a tree just disappear in front of my eyes, and then I was scared.”

 

The family heard a roar that lasted for 30 to 40 seconds, he said. Then they emerged from the basement, expecting the house to be destroyed, but there was no damage. After walking around the neighborhood, however, they found a nearby house that had been ruined by the tornado.

 

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“I remember seeing that with my own eyes, and that’s what caused it,” he said of the moment that turned his fascination with weather into a calling. “I was standing at the foot of that driveway, going, ‘What caused this? I’m studying this stuff for the rest of my life.’”

 

He graduated from the University of Oklahoma with a bachelor’s degree in meteorology in 2000. While there, he tracked storms for KWTV in Oklahoma City, where he met one of his greatest mentors, Gary England.

 

He then worked for KAMR in Amarillo, Texas, from 2001 to 2003, which is when he moved to Little Rock to work at KARK. In 2006, he had the opportunity to move to Fayetteville and become chief meteorologist at KNWA.

 

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“I fell in love with the place, and the amount of growth that I’ve seen from 2006 to now is unbelievable,” he said. “I could tell this was a booming community and a great place to raise children, and so we decided to move up here and take the opportunity.”

 

In the nearly 18 years since moving to northwest Arkansas, he has become attuned to the region’s often temperamental weather patterns.

 

“This is one of the most difficult places in the country to forecast,” he said. “It’s extremely difficult forecasting winter weather. A lot of severe storms weaken and fizzle out, as we call it — the Fayetteville Fizzle — as they move into the northwest Arkansas area. It doesn’t always happen, but more oftentimes than not, it does, and so as far as a challenge is concerned, this is a very challenging and very difficult place to forecast the weather.”

 

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Nonetheless, Skoff and his weather team have proven to be worth their salt. The station was recently rated the most accurate weather station in the market, Skoff said, and he has won three Emmy Awards during his time at KNWA. 

 

Despite that, he said the highlight of his career has been saving a child from the very thing that led Skoff to pursue meteorology in the first place — a tornado.  

 

“I think my proudest moment is getting an email from a teacher, saying that I ended up saving a life because a tornado hit a student’s home, and they remembered what to do and tornado safety,” he said. “They survived the [tornado] while their home was destroyed, and the parents were away, still at work. That, I think, was my proudest accomplishment.”

 

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As chief meteorologist, Skoff oversees two meteorologists and an aspiring meteorologist. He is also responsible for the weeknight forecasts and other duties that come with heading up the weather team. 

 

His passion for teaching others about the weather has garnered the creation of the phrase “weather vortex” to describe a phenomenon that happens whenever someone is near the weather lab when Skoff is working.

 

“If I’m in there, I’m going to try to suck them in and tell them something about the weather,” he said, “so they jokingly call it the ‘weather vortex’ because if you’re going to be sucked in, you’re going to learn something about the weather.”

 

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In addition to teaching the “why” behind the weather, Skoff has a passion for igniting the drive to pursue meteorology in others. He frequently brings on interns at the station, and he also enlists “weather kids” who learn about meteorology and present a seven-day forecast on TV.

 

The current media landscape has led to industry challenges as meteorologists navigate social media, the 24-hour news cycle and the shift from traditional broadcasts to streaming, he said — challenges that add to an already mercurial work schedule.

 

“The job of a broadcast meteorologist is difficult,” he said. “The times, the hours, are difficult. It’s not like your normal job, where you are in the evenings. Your schedule is susceptible to the weather. Anything you might plan could be canceled at a moment’s notice, and so I just want to thank my wife and my kids for understanding and being understanding with the sudden changes.”

 

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However, for those with an interest in the science of the skies and helping people stay safe and plan their activities around the weather, the rewards are worth the stress, he added.

 

“Go for your passion, and don’t let anybody snuff it out,” he said. “There will be challenges. There will be struggles. There will be things that you encounter that you might not necessarily like, but still to this day, I’m passionate about the weather.”

 

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