Three men who had dedicated themselves to furthering the knowledge and science of severe weather were among those killed Friday in a deadly twister that struck El Reno, Oklahoma. Tim Samaras, his son Paul, and their chase partner Carl Young, were well-known within the weather enthusiast community but also known to many Americans following their appearance on a television show.
The deadly outbreak of severe weather on Friday spawned as many as 17 tornadoes and is known to have killed at least nine people in Oklahoma and injured more than 100. Three more were killed by flash flooding in Missouri.
The worst of the twisters was a monstrous EF-3 rated tornado that hit El Reno, Oklahoma. Packing winds between 136 and 165 mph the storm was one of five in the Oklahoma City area.
Tim Samaras’ brother, Jim, confirmed the loss of the trio on Facebook saying, “Thank you to everyone for the condolences. It truly is sad that we lost my great brother Tim and his great son, Paul.
“Our hearts also go out to the Carl Young family as well as they are feeling the same feelings we are today. They all unfortunately passed away but doing what they loved.”
Tim Samaras was 55 and his son Paul was 24. Both were residents of Bennett, Colorado. Carl Young was 45 and lived in South Lake Tahoe, California.
Many know the Samaras’ and Young from their appearances on the Discovery Channel’s television series Storm Chasers. They and their TWISTEX team were often seen putting research instruments into the path of tornadoes to better understand the science behind the violent storms.
While they may be first thought of as storm chasers, Tim Samaras was an engineer and a scientist. He was not one of the new breed of storm chasers out for glory of capturing extreme video.
Instead he invented devices that took critical measurements of storms to further our understanding of tornadoes, all in an effort to improve warnings and save people’s lives.
The National Geographic Society provided 18 grants to Samaras for his field work. The Society named him one of their 2005 Emerging Explorers.
Terry Garcia, executive vice president of the National Geographic Society, told the Daily Mail, “Tim’s research included creation of a special probe he would place in the path of a twister to measure data from inside the tornado; his pioneering work on lightning was featured in the August 2012 issue of National Geographic magazine. Though we sometimes take it for granted, Tim’s death is a stark reminder of the risks encountered regularly by the men and women who work for us. This is an enormous loss for his family, his wide circle of friends and colleagues and National Geographic.”
The exact circumstances of their deaths has not been released. New video taken in Canadian County showed their virtually destroyed vehicle being put on a tow truck looking nothing like the heavy duty truck that it once was.
Many residents and professionals were caught off guard by the tornado as it was a multi-vortex twister – one with multiple funnels. It performed an unusual left-hand turn unexpectedly catching many in its path.
The Weather Channel’s “Tornado Hunt” vehicle with meteorologist Mike Bettes and a film crew were caught in the tornado as well. While all survived, their vehicle was tossed 100 yards into a field.
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