A massive tornado in Kansas may seem like one of the most unlikely — and certainly one of the most dangerous — places for a marriage proposal, but for experienced storm chaser Joey Krastel, it was a real and exhilarating way to show his love for his boyfriend.
Krastel, a meteorologist and risk analyst for the Maryland Emergency Management Agency, saw his first tornado when he was four. After getting over his initial fear, he became obsessed with natural disasters.
“It was at that moment where I knew everything I wanted to do from then on out,” Krastel, 27, told NBC News. “Every meteorologist has a weather story from when they were little that defined their path.”
But watching tornadoes from far away wasn’t satisfying for Krastel. He wanted to be in the thick of them. And so began his adventures as a storm chaser — someone who runs toward and documents cataclysmic weather events such as thunderstorms and twisters. Krastel estimates he has chased approximately 70 storms in total.
Disastrous storms brought Krastel and his now-fiancé, Chris Scott, together. Scott used to watch storms with his father and his favorite movie as a child was 1996’s “Twister,” a film about a storm-chasing couple on the brink of divorce who must join forces to create an advanced weather alert system during a record outbreak of tornadoes in Oklahoma. Scott, 23, and Krastel had been following each other on Instagram, where Krastel posts pictures of the storms he sees, for a while until one day Scott sent a message.
“Hey, do you actually chase tornadoes?” Krastel recalls Scott asking at the time.
“That’s why it was always in the back of my mind to get engaged during storm chasing,” Krastel said. “I felt like it would be this perfect way to seal the deal.”
On Tuesday, Krastel, Scott and two of their mutual friends set out to catch a tornado in Kansas, a tornado that inspired the National Weather Service to issue a “tornado emergency” for several counties in the state, as well as the Kansas City metropolitan area. The group began their tornado watch in Salina, Kansas, and winded up following the storm to Tipton, where Krastel popped the question.
“It all just kind of came together and happened so quickly,” Krastel said. “I was like ‘OK, this is it.’”
His friends snapped the photo of Krastel down on one knee with the gray tornado looming in the background. The photo has since received almost 6,000 likes on Twitter.
“The 2 loves of my life,” Krastel captioned the photo.
Krastel said the picture doesn’t reflect how close the group was to the tornado — and during the proposal, Krastel said it moved even closer to them.
“I called to my friends to get back in the car,” Krastel said. “I was just so emotional just because it was my happiest place, being with him next to the storms.”
No fatalities have been reported from the most recent Kansas tornado, but at least 15 people suffered from storm-related injuries, according to the Douglas County Office of Emergency Management.
Krastel said safety is one of his main priorities and acknowledges that storm chasing can be chaotic and even dangerous.
“People need to listen to the warnings and listen to the National Weather Service and their local meteorologists,” Krastel said. “They know what they’re talking about and their only goal is to save you.”
For now, his storm chasing adventures continue.
“Every storm offers a new opportunity for data, for personal experience, for science,” Krastel said. “Now we’re on our way down through Oklahoma and then we’ll be making our way to northern Texas to catch some storms.”