Tornado chaser Tim Samaras shows the probes he uses when trying to collect data from a tornado. This photo was taken May 26, 2006, in Ames, Iowa. Charlie Neibergall/AP
Tim Samaras had one passion in life: Tornadoes. He told The Weather Channel that when he was kid, his mother sat him down in front of The Wizard of Oz; he was immediately entranced by the violent, dark twister that tore through the landscape.
Samaras went on to become one of the premier storm chasers in the country. He was an engineer who designed probes that captured information at the base of the tornado, the part that can destroy homes and buildings in seconds.
The problem — and the exhilarating part — is that in order for those probes to work, they had to be put in the path of the tornado. It meant Samaras and his team would head out every spring to Tornado Alley in search of the mythical storms.
On Friday during one of those missions, Samaras, along with his 24-year-old son Paul and his friend 45-year-old Carl Young were caught by the large tornado that tore through El Reno, Okla.
Storm chasers became a big part of that story early on, when we learned that the tornado flung a Weather Channel car clear across a highway. The car was totaled but everyone was OK.
Mike Bettes, one of the chasers on board, issued a statement asking everyone to “respect the weather.” Nate Johnson, a meteorologist for WRAL-TV in North Carolina, responded with an ominous blog post. It was a titled: “Some day our luck will run out.” It was followed by images of smashed vehicles and a map showing dozens of storm chasers awaiting the El Reno twister.
Jim Samaras, Tim’s brother, announced his death on Facebook today. He said that all three died “doing what they loved”: “Chasing tornados. I look at it that he’s in the ‘big tornado in the sky…”
“You can see in detail the tornado, the wind flow; you can actually hear it. And the sounds are different. If [the tornado is] in an open field, it sounds like a waterfall. If it’s in a populated area, it becomes more of a thundering sound.
“And then actually even the smell of tornadoes—if you’re in the right place, you get a strong odor of fresh-cut grass, or occasionally, if it’s destroyed a house, natural gas. Sometimes you get that raw earth smell, similar to if you run a bulldozer over open land.”
Two days before the top-of-the-scale EF-5 tornado ripped through Moore, Okla., Samaras was in south-central Kansas. His son was in the driver’s seat. The wind picked up, the barometric pressured changed. Then, stunningly, beautifully even, the deep, dark clouds start rotating, forming a funnel. Within a couple of minutes, the tornado is on the ground, its base twirling earth with unbelievable ease.
As soon as the tornado lifts, Samaras runs out of the vehicle. The wind is whipping, the sun is setting and the funnel is dancing to his right.
Samaras looks up to take in the moment and he says, “Wow!”
The Sitka Sound sac roe herring fishery is in full swing. In less than a week, the fleet has caught over half of its quota. And while most crew members work on the water, spotter pilots fish for herring from the sky.
The Juneau World Affairs Council presents “Mongolia Today: Profile, Strengths and Politics” with Tsogtbaatar Damdin. Mr. Tsogtbaatar is a former cabinet minister and newly elected member of the Mongolian Parliament,
The Juneau World Affairs Council presents “Mongolia Today: Profile, Strengths and Politics” with Tsogtbaatar Damdin. Mr. Tsogtbaatar is a former cabinet minister and newly elected member of the Mongolian Parliament, the State Great Hural.
MudroomsReal people. real stories. Live, on stage. “Mudrooms” is a community-powered monthly event in Juneau, where real people tell real stories, live. Anchorage has “Arctic Entries”. In Juneau, we’re just as sophisticated – just a little muddier. Mudrooms’ creators are Amanda Compton and Alida Bus. Audio production by Marc Wheeler.
Focus On Community“Focus on Community” is an hour long, public affairs program hosted by different volunteer, community members each week. The format ranges from in-studio discussions, to live call-ins. Topics vary from peace initiatives to mental health problems to hotly debated town issues. Any and all community members are invited to present a show idea and work with us to bring it the air.
Telling Tales with Ms. GEach week, host, Ms.G, reads a selection of writing based around a given theme. Audio of her show is available the following day here on our website.