Former eNCA meteorologist Derek Van Dam calls himself 'a self-declared weather nerd'. His latest assignment had him covering Hurricane Irma for CNN.
Former eNCA meteorologist Derek Van Dam calls himself 'a self-declared weather nerd'. His latest assignment had him covering Hurricane Irma for CNN.
Derek Van Dam with his wife Tara and daughter Maya Sophia.
Derek Van Dam with his wife Tara and daughter Maya Sophia.
Derek Van Dam needs no introduction to South African audiences - the former eNCA meteorologist developed quite a following in South Africa, thanks to his American accent and pronunciation of local provinces.

Van Dam, who describes himself as “a husband, first-time father to a baby girl, hurricane-chasing, tornado- spotting, marathon-running, surfer, outdoor extraordinaire”, traded eNCA and Cape Town for CNN and Atlanta in 2014.

He speaks fondly of his time at eNCA.

“It was my dream job. I absolutely loved my time there and all my colleagues who made it so enjoyable. I have so many wonderful memories of covering Cape storms outside in the wind and rain, getting blown over by the southeaster and inevitably getting the weather forecast wrong.”

Van Dam helped reshape the weather coverage at the free-to-air channel e.tv.

“I was at eNCA from the beginning. We built that ship from the ground up, which is a real privilege because I feel a little bit of me still lives within the concepts and ideas behind how South Africans view their weather. Lots of hard work, sweat and tears went into that department. It was such an awesome team environment that I could have never done it without the talented people that worked alongside me.”

Then CNN came a-knocking. “They approached me while I was on holiday in Spain with my then-girlfriend, now my wife. I’ll never forget that first phone call from them,” says Van Dam. “I couldn’t believe that they wanted to interview me. Now, I chase hurricanes, solar eclipses, blizzards and tornadoes for them. And I get paid to do it! What an opportunity for this self-declared weather nerd.”

His latest assignment took him to Florida during Hurricane Irma.

“I was right in the thick of the storm. I was located on Miami Beach... being pummeled by 150km/* winds so intense it feels like you are pressure-washing your face with sand and water. Dodging flying coconuts, tree limbs and electrical wires is a bit of an twisted adrenaline rush, I guess.

“It’s tough to see tragedy but also incredible to see the unity it brings. Race, religion and colour of skin are forgotten momentarily as the people in a usually divided nation come together to help one another."

Van Dam adds: “Last month I was part of an industry first, 360-degree live-stream virtual reality experience for the 'Great American Solar Eclipse'.

"I co-anchored the digital live-stream alongside a former Nasa astronaut who had been in space and lived on the International Space Station.

"We were located in the home of country music, Nashville, Tennessee. The skies went dark in a matter of seconds as the moon aligned with the earth to block out the sun's rays here on earth.

"There was a 360-degree sunset all around me. It was a very surreal moment.”

Van Dam grew up in Michigan, which he describes as “home to true salt-of-the-earth-type people”.

He has built a cosy life back in the US with his Capetonian wife, Tara, and their six-month-old daughter, Maya Sophia.

On spending quality time with his family, Van Dam says: “I also play guitar and my wife plays piano. We play to our daughter in our living room.”