Carl Young (left) and Tim Samaras, veteran storm researchers, were killed in Friday’s El Reno, Okla., tornado. Samaras’ son Paul also died when the tornado hit their vehicle. (AP Photo / Discovery Channel)
The severe storms forecasting and storm chaser world was stunned to learn Sunday morning of the deaths of veteran tornado researcher Tim Samaras (right in photo), his son Paul Samaras and colleague Carl Young (left in photo) in Friday’s tornado at El Reno, Okla. Tim Samaras, featured in many episodes of the Discovery Channel’s “Storm Chasers” series, was more than a storm chaser, he was a true scientist of great talent and intellect, widely respected by his fellow weather scientists and researchers. The Storm Prediction Center described him this way: “Samaras was a respected tornado researcher and friend … who brought to the field a unique portfolio of expertise in engineering, science, writing and videography.” The details of how exactly they ended up at the wrong place at the wrong time are still not known, and somewhat puzzling, considering Samaras’ commitment to safe storm chasing while sometimes having to push the envelope in his research to collect data on tornadoes and lightning.
Samaras’ death hit home for me this morning because of the Virginia Tech storm chasers’ current stay at the Guymon, Okla., Super 8. A year ago, I was with a different group of Tech storm chasers here at this same hotel when we met Samaras and Young. Samaras was humble and chatted warmly with us on that morning, as we talked about the irony of being 1,000 miles away from a moderate risk of severe storms over Virginia. He expressed interest in how some of our group could chase storms in the hills and trees of Virginia sometimes.
This year’s Hokie Storm Chasers spent much of Friday afternoon at El Reno, before deciding to head south away from the obvious extreme tempest developing over the Oklahoma City metropolitan area.
We’ve spent this Sunday in Guymon in Oklahoma’s Panhandle. We’ll re-evaluate in the morning to see exactly where we need to locate in the High Plains between Nebraska and Texas for potential severe storms on Monday and Tuesday.
Looks like Virginia’s storms arrived a little earlier than I mentioned above today. Look for some more showers and storms tonight and Monday.