Edmonton

'Beautiful chaos': For Alberta storm enthusiast, the thrill's in the chase

While weeks of hard rain and battering wind have many Albertans cursing the summer sky, storm-chaser Nevin Demilliano is relishing the tempestuous weather.

Black clouds, crackling skies — this the weather Nevin DeMilliano loves

Nevin DeMilliano has spent his summer chasing storms like this one across Alberta and Saskatchewan. (Nevin DeMilliano)

While weeks of hard rain and battering wind have many Albertans cursing the summer sky, storm-chaser Nevin DeMilliano is relishing the tempestuous weather.

Black clouds, growling thunder, the crack of lightning — this the weather that DeMilliano loves.  

"The feeling is just phenomenal," DeMilliano said in an interview with CBC Radio's Edmonton AM.

"For me, it's always been an experiential thing." 

'They can really put on a show' 

DeMilliano, 31, has spent the summer crisscrossing Alberta and Saskatchewan, putting 3,000 kilometres of new mileage on his car in pursuit of funnel clouds, twisters and tempests.

Based in Edmonton, DeMilliano has been chasing storms for more than a decade. 

Three weeks ago, he tracked a powerful storm that would eventually bring a pair of tornadoes to Saskatchewan's Meadow Lake Provincial Park, about 350 kilometres northeast of Edmonton.

DeMilliano was forced to abandon the chase a few hours before it landed when the churning cloud moved into forested areas that were impassable by road. 

When the storm touched down it would uproot trailers, flip trailers and force campers in the area to flee for cover. 

"To see these rotating thunderstorms, they can really put on a show and there is nothing like that," said DeMilliano who works for Innovate Edmonton when he's not storm-chasing. 

"It's also just the feeling of the air. Before the chase even starts, it's blue sky, it's hot and humid, and then it all kind of turns into chaos and beautiful chaos.

"Feeling the air moving in and out of these storms, it's incredible." 

DeMilliano, a member of Prairie Storm Chasers, wasn't always so fearless. He spent his childhood running away from storms. 

"I was frightened of thunderstorms," he said. "But that fear drove my curiosity, really wanting to find out what makes them tick so you can understand them and be less afraid of them." 

As an adult, he began to study meteorology and satellite weather-modelling. 

This summer has been a boon to storm chasers like him, DeMilliano said. 

According to Environment Canada, there have been 12 confirmed tornadoes across the province so far in 2019, not including three unconfirmed ones. 

Alberta typically sees an average of 15 tornadoes per year. 

DeMilliano attributes the spike to the unsettled weather and a series of new research projects aimed at tracking extreme weather.

"Sometimes we get those blue sky, hot summers and no storms and then other times, it's very active like this and that's just the way it goes sometimes," DeMilliano said.  

"I think there's a lot of resources this year and last year that have put a focus on counting the tornadoes that actually happen in Alberta and Saskatchewan. 

"I mean, if no one sees a tornado, did it really happen?"

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