Tim Samaras, his 24-year-old son Paul, and colleague 45-year-old Carl Young died while chasing the dangerous El Reno, Oklahoma tornado on Friday night. Their previous work was documented by a Discovery Channel series called Storm Chasers that ran for five years until it was cancelled early in 2012. However, their scientific research continued after the series ended.
The 55-year-old Samaras left a final Memorial Day Facebook post:
“Everyone enjoy the chase–and hope that tornadoes wander over open country. Most of all, I reflect and appreciate the freedom this incredible country has to offer, and the ultimate sacrifices so many have made to make it happen. Thank you. You are the true heros.”
The Samaras father/son team and Carl Young didn’t chase to be on TV. They were researchers known for their caution, but they also knew that you have to get out there if you want to do the science.
In a haunting final interview with National Geographic, Tim Samaras explained that we still have a lot to learn about why tornadoes form:
“We still don’t know why some thunderstorms create tornadoes while others don’t. We’re trying to collect as many observations as possible, both from outside and from the inside…”
Tim Samaras and his team were widely respected for their attention to safety. Fans on Twitter and Facebook mentioned his caution, and CNN meteorologist Chad Myers emphasized how careful he was:
“There’s just no one safer than Tim. Tim, he would never put himself in danger. He certainly wouldn’t put his son in danger.”
Other researchers told CNN the same thing, explaining that the entire weather research community has been hard-hit by the deaths. The size, speed, and unpredictable nature of the El Reno tornado was too much even for the most knowledgeable researchers.
Mike Bettes, a National Weather Channel meteorologist, experienced some unwanted fame himself when his truck was tossed 200 yards in a video that quickly went viral.
By a miracle, Bettes and both members of his crew actually stood up and walked away from the disaster.
Sadly, Carl Young and the Samaras men didn’t enjoy the same luck.
Like the service people Samaras saluted in his last Facebook post, these storm-chasers put their lives on the line and ultimately paid the highest price.
Paul Samaras, Tim Samaras, and Carl Young will be missed.
We’re deeply saddened by the loss of @tim_samaras, his son Paul, and their colleague Carl Young. Our thoughts & prayers go to their families
— Discovery Channel US (@Discovery) June 2, 2013
[tornado photo by Daniel Loretto via Shutterstock]