Tornado chaser, his son, and a colleague killed in Friday’s storms in Oklahoma

This obviously has nothing to do with Savannah, but there was some sad and interesting news today about Friday’s tornado in El Reno, Oklahoma.

From National Geographic’s Tornado Chaser Tim Samaras Killed in Oklahoma Twister:

Tim Samaras, one of the world’s best-known storm chasers, died in Friday’s El Reno, Oklahoma tornado along with his son [Paul], according to a statement from Samaras’s brother.

“They all unfortunately passed away but doing what they LOVED,” Jim Samaras, Tim’s brother, wrote on Facebook, saying that storm chaser Carl Young was also killed. “I look at it that he is in the ‘big tornado in the sky.'”

Tim Samaras, who was 55, spent the past 20 years zigzagging across the Plains, predicting where tornados would develop and placing probes he designed in the twister’s path in to measure data from inside the cyclone.

The National Geographic piece rhapsodizes about the research that Samaras did over the years. He received 18 grants from National Geographic for his work.

But nowhere does the lengthy piece at National Geographic mention that Samaras was also a star of Discovery’s Storm Chasers. His bio from the site, which has not been updated with his death:

Chasing has been a part of Tim’s life for over 25 years. Ten years ago, he developed his own tornado probes to record meteorological data inside of tornadoes. On June 24, 2003, [see video below] Tim dropped a probe in the path of an F-4 tornado where it measured an astounding 100 millibar pressure drop — a record that still stands today. Tim runs the scientific field program, TWISTEX (Tactical Weather Instrumented Sampling in Tornadoes Experiment, Their mission is to help understand why tornadoes form in order to increase warning times in Tornado Alley.

Last year, Tim had a successful probe deployment on the last chase of the season in Grand Island, Nebraska. This year, TWISTEX is introducing new instruments to help them meet their scientific goals, including a new probe called TOWER. This new probe features multiple anemometers to measure wind speed and direction, cans of smoke to track circulation, and a brand new 360-degree camera mount. In addition, Tim is conducting research for Boeing, testing the effects of large hail on the company’s new aircraft.

For a few days at least, we’ll be reading about the value of Samaras’ research, but it will be interesting after that to hear more about any risks that might have been taken just to create entertainment.

Here’s Samaras’ final tweet, from Friday afternoon:

And here’s some incredible footage from that major storm a decade ago. If the real situation here was even a tenth as dramatic as it appears in this video, then it was scary indeed. Clearly Samaras knew what kind of risks he was taking.