A picture of the TWISTEX team. Photo Credit: Laubacht
Tim Samaras had chased storms for 30 years. Safety was always his top concern, as evident on Discovery Channel’s “Storm Chasers”. Samaras founded TWISTEX, the Tactical Weather Instrument Sampling in Tornadoes Experiment, for safety as an effort to improve warning times and structural engineering. So, it was sad to see the tragic news on Sunday.
Samaras, 55, his son Paul, 24, and teammate Carl Young, 45, perished after an unexpected turn from a tornado in El Reno, Okla. Friday. CNN meteorologist Chad Meyers said, “It was a wobbler. And it was big…I think the left-hand turn made a big difference on how this thing was chased as well and why people were killed and why people were injured in their vehicles.”
The three men were among 18 people who died from this last tornado outbreak.
Samaras actually did a phone interview with National Geographic’s radio station earlier Friday. Boyd Matson conducted the interview, and National Geographic published the transcript on Monday. Matson’s interview proved to be an eerie foreshadowing of things to come. Matson asked Samaras in his second question, “What convinces you to go outside and take pictures–that it won’t make a sudden turn and come right at you?”
Samaras replied, “Well, when you’re out looking for these things, they’re so fleeting and unpredictable, there’s always that chance. But I’ve been chasing these thing for almost 30 years now. And not that I know exactly where they’re headed or what they’re doing, but I feel reasonably comfortable getting up close and personal so that we can collect measurements of these tornadoes.”
A warning from above? Probably just coincidence, but freaky that he would be asked that question on the day of his death. This is another example of how unpredictable weather is, and how unforgiving mother nature can be. Samaras was not a rookie. He was not reckless either. Just from watching the show, Samaras showed that he would never jeopardize the lives of the crew. Samaras does not drive around in an armored tank like Reed Timmer and Sean Casey. He wants to get close, so his “turtle” pods record accurate data, but at the same time the safety of his crew and son come first. Samaras and his crew just got too close. It was a slight miscalculation, and a rare occurrence. Samaras knew the risk. He said in the interview, “There’s always that chance.”
Everyone makes mistakes. Unfortunately, they learned the hard way. This was a tragic loss for the Samaras and Young families, as well as the storm chasing community. But, I do not feel that Samaras and his two teammates died in vain. They helped contribute a lot of valuable data throughout the years. Hopefully, future generations can come in, and finish what they started.