MINOT, N.D. — As a boy, Brian Heskin watched the Weather Channel "pretty much all day every day" while other kids watched the Cartoon Network.
But now, instead of being glued to the tube, the 33-year-old Minot resident drives all over the Upper Midwest in his early 2000s Buick (Heskin said he doesn't mind a hail dent or two) to find stormy weather.
Often, he posts photos and videos of what he encounters on his Dakota Storm Stalkers Facebook page.
He said he tries to keep the page's 80,000-plus followers up to date with forecasts, stating he usually talks "about this stuff several days before it happens."
Heskin's day job is in retail, and he is an English major at Minot State University.
The weather fixation is just for fun, he said, adding that he decided early on that meteorology wasn't a field he wanted to pursue professionally.
"To become a meteorologist you really have to excel at math and that wasn't my strong suit," said Heskin, who took a storm stalking trip to Nebraska in May, where he said he "got a little closer than I should have" to a twister.
"It (the tornado) was rain wrapped, you see the rain curtains kind of doing an orbit around the vehicle," Heskin recalled.
"One sheet of rain was going one way in front of me and a sheet of rain behind me was going another way and then the power lines started coming down. Anytime you're dealing with downed power lines that close, it's pretty dangerous," said Heskin, who described his Facebook page as something of an independent news/weather service for the Northern Plains.
He said one of his most interesting climatological close encounters happened last year as he drove toward a storm system in northeast Montana.
"It was just crazy," he recalled.
"Ahead of the storm, temperatures were like 95 degrees, it was just hot and muggy, and then there was such a clear-cut contrast in temperature. When I drove just a little bit forward, the temperature dropped about 30-35 degrees and my (car) windows just completely fogged up," Heskin said.
When he turned around and drove back the way he came, he said the temperature shot back up to 90 degrees.
"That (extreme temperature change) is really what these thunderstorms thrive on," Heskin said. "They follow these boundaries, but I had never experienced that in real life."
Heskin covers winter weather as closely as he does summertime events, but he said cold months aren't his favorites..
"I prefer the warm weather, the thunderstorm part," he said.