Tim Samaras, 55, was killed on Friday as another round of tornadoes swept through Oklahoma. A well-known and respected storm chaser, he was out with his son Paul Samaras, 24, and their colleague Carl Young, 45, in El Reno trying to research and document the storm. All three were later found dead.
Tim Samaras was found in his car with his seat belt still on. His son and his partner were both ripped from the car by the storm. One of them was found a half a mile away.
Tim Samaras was in the field of tornado science for more than 25 years. He met Carl Young at a meteorological conference, and the two have chased more than 125 tornadoes together since 2003.
Tim Samaras’ main priority was always safety, as it should be for any storm chaser. He was known for being one of the safest chasers in the industry, and he would never want to put anyone in harm’s way. It was just bad luck that he and his team were out on Friday.
“Out of all storm chasers he doesn’t take chances, he’s the one that puts the probes in the path of the tornado to learn more about them,” ABC News meteorologist Ginger Zee said of Samaras. “He is not, you know, a young gun running around making bad decisions person, so I am so sad and shocked, it is such a loss for the community.”
Samaras was a ground-breaking researcher in his field. He constructed his own probes to measure atmospheric variables within a tornado, and one of his probes measured a record pressure drop inside a tornado. He also built a probe with cameras that could look inside a tornado. He founded and ran TWISTEX (Tactical Weather Instrumented Sampling in Tornadoes Experiment), a scientific field research program of which Carl Young was a part. The goal of the program is to improve forecasts and increase warning times for when a tornado is going to strike, decreasing the death tolls. Samaras also starred in the Discovery Channel series Storm Chasers until it was cancelled in 2012.
“We are deeply saddened by the loss of Tim Samaras his son Paul and their colleague Carl Young. Our thoughts and prayers go out to their families,” the Discovery Channel said in a statement.
National Geographic funded much of Samaras’ research, including the field work he was doing the day he died. "Though we sometimes take it for granted, Tim's death is a stark reminder of the risks encountered regularly by the men and women who work for us,” Executive Vice President, of the National Geographic Society, Terry Garcia, said in a statement. “This is an enormous loss for his family, his wide circle of friends and colleagues and National Geographic."
Indeed, it was a sad loss for not only the weather and storm chasing community, but for anybody who might have benefited from his life’s work. At least we all know that these three men died doing what they loved and were passionate about.
Tim Samaras, Paul Samaras and Carl Young were three out of 13 dead as a result of this recent disaster, and the search for missing still continues.