Oklahoma Tornado Kills Three Former Discovery Channel Storm Chasers
redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports – Your Universe Online
Three storm chasers who came to fame on a former Discovery Channel reality show were among the 10 individuals killed by tornadoes in central Oklahoma on Friday, various media outlets revealed on Sunday.
Tim Samaras, the 55-year-old founder of tornado research firm Twistex (Tactical Weather Instrumented Sampling in Tornadoes Experiment), was killed in the Oklahoma City suburb of El Reno along with his 24-year-old son, Paul Samaras, and 45-year-old Twistex meteorologist Carl Young, according to Daniel Trotta and Jonathan Allen of Reuters.
All three men were featured on Discovery Channel’s TV show “Storm Chasers” during the 2009 season, according to CNN. Tim Samaras was from Denver, Colorado and was also a longtime National Geographic Emerging Explorer. Among his work was a special probe that he would place in a tornado´s path, which would measure data from inside the twister.
National Geographic Society Executive Vice President Terry Garcia said in a statement that he and his entire organization were “shocked and deeply saddened” by his passing, as well as those of his son and their colleague.
“Tim was a courageous and brilliant scientist who fearlessly pursued tornadoes and lightning in the field in an effort to better understand these phenomena,” Garcia added. “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.”
Their deaths have also raised questions about the future of storm chasing and the safety of the practice.
“Tim Samaras was the best there was and he was the last person you would think this would happen to,” Tony Laubach, who was a friend of Samaras and had been storm chasing with him for six years, told Reuters. “It’s going to bring everybody down to earth. A lot of chasing has been getting very, very careless, and Tim is not a careless person. He is as nimble and skilled as he could be.”
“In recent years, their numbers have expanded far beyond scientific researchers or professional weather reporters,” added USA Today reporter Gregg Zoroya. “The proliferation of storm chasers, particularly those armed only with a video camera and a taste for thrill-seeking, has left law enforcement and many veteran storm followers concerned about growing safety risks.”
David Blumenthal, a spokesman for the Weather Company (the parent company of the Weather Channel), told Zoroya that it was too soon to speculate on how Friday´s events could affect severe weather coverage, but noted that they would be reviewing the incident.
Weather Channel severe weather expert Greg Forbes added that he hoped there would be “lessons learned” from the Oklahoma tornado — “that people realize that if they’re going to go out storm-chasing, that they could die. There’s no guarantee that they’re going to be able to escape the tornado.”