Storm chasers killed: How did it happen? (+video)
Storm chasers killed: Three storm chasers were among 13 killed in Oklahoma by tornadoes that hit the area at rush hour Friday. Several vehicles were swept off roads — including one from The Weather Channel that was tossed 200 yards and flipped without causing serious injuries.
Three veteran storm chasers died doing what they loved: roaming the Great Plains in search of dangerous storms like the one in Oklahoma that ended their final pursuit.Skip to next paragraph
In Pictures Facing the devastation of the Oklahoma tornadoes
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Tim Samaras, his son Paul and colleague Carl Young died Friday night when an EF3 tornado with winds up to 165 mph turned on them near El Reno, Okla. After years of sharing dramatic videos with television viewers and weather researchers, they died chasing a storm that killed 13 in Oklahoma City and its suburbs.
"It's something we've done countless times in the past and have done it successfully and safely," said Tony Laubauch, who was working with Tim Samaras' chase team Friday night. "And, you know, whatever happened on this one, it's just horrible beyond words."
The men's deaths in pursuit of the storm are believed to be the first among scientific researchers while chasing tornadoes, the Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Okla., said.
"They put themselves in harm's way so that they can educate the public about the destructive power of these storms," said Chris West, the undersheriff in Canadian County, where the men died.
Tim Samaras, 54, of Bennett, Colo., had a reputation for being safe but was trapped on the highway with his son, Paul Samaras, 24, also of Bennett, and Young, 45, who taught geology at Lake Tahoe Community College in South Lake Tahoe, Calif.
"I don't know if I would say I worried about it because one of the biggest things he stressed was safety," said Tim's brother, Jim Samaras, who confirmed the deaths to The Associated Press. "He knew what to look for. He knew where not to be and in this case, the tornado took a clear turn toward them."
Tim Samaras and his Twistex tornado chase team produced material for the Discovery Channel, National Geographic and meteorological conferences.
"He looked at tornadoes not for the spotlight of TV but for the scientific aspect," Jim Samaras said. "At the end of the day, he wanted to save lives and he gave the ultimate sacrifice for that."
On Sunday, leaders at Lake Tahoe Community College expressed their condolences to the family of Carl Young, who died chasing tornadoes in Oklahoma. The college says Young taught geology at the community college in South Lake Tahoe, Calif.
The college says Young was admired by his peers and students. The Lake Tahoe Community College Board of Trustees named Young as a distinguished alumnus in 2010 for his research and work.
College Superintendent and President Kindred Murillo says Young's "groundbreaking research" in the field of meteorological data will be used to save lives in the future. Murillo says the Board of Trustees will consider dedicating this year's graduation in honor of Young.
The Oklahoma storm that killed the three chasers developed right in front to them. Tim Samaras tweeted a photo of clouds rising through a volatile atmosphere and noted: "Storms now initiating south of Watonga along triple point. Dangerous day ahead for OK — stay weather savvy!"
It was his final tweet.