Traverse City Record-Eagle

June 2, 2013

Tornado kills star storm chasers


CNHI News Service

— Three storm-chaser stars for the Discovery Channel were among 13 people killed in tornadoes and flooding in the nation's heartland over the weekend, authorities reported Sunday.

Tim Samaras, 55, his son Paul, 24, and Carl Young, 45, were victims of a series of twisters they were tracking in their specially-equipped research van in Oklahoma City and its western suburbs early Friday evening.

Oklahoma's Medical Examiner said their bodies were found in the wrecked van outside suburban El Reno near Interstate 40. Several other people also died along the stretch of highway when their vehicles were tossed about.

Authorities said four people drowned in flood waters as a result of all-day torrential downpours from Oklahoma City to St. Louis. Three of the victims were from the St. Louis area.

Samaras had been researching the science of tornadoes for the Discovery Channel when his van got caught in the twister's vortex.  Discovery said it would air a special program dedicated to Semaras and his crew for their bravery and helpful research. They had also worked for the Weather Channel.

In an interview with National Geographic last month, Samaras said he had been fascinated by tornadoes since childhood, when he first watched Dorothy's tornado ride from Kansas to the fictional land of Oz.

"I watched the 'Wizard of Oz' as a kid and vowed to myself, I'm going to see that tornado one day," said Semaras. "Tornadoes have pretty much become a focus of my life."

His brother, Jim Samaras, said father and son were both dedicated to collecting scientific data about tornadoes that would lead to earlier detection and prevent the loss of life.

"I look at it that he is in the big tornado in the sky," said Jim of his brother.

The severe weather pattern that terrorized Oklahoma and Missouri over the weekend moved toward the Middle Atlantic states and the Northeast Sunday. It featured high winds, hail and rain.

Twelve days earlier an EF-5 tornado killed 24 people in Oklahoma City and its south suburb of Moore. More than 350 people were injured and thousands lost their homes in the week of twisters. Power outages remained widespread.

National Weather Center forecasters said the turbulent weather cell that caused the weekend havoc  will continue to move slowly east and north during the first part of the week. There was also a chance that the heartland would get pounded by another severe storm front Monday.

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