Tim Samaras, his son Paul Samaras and their colleague Carl Young were killed yesterday when their research vehicle was crushed almost beyond recognition by a Tornado they were “chasing” in Oklahoma.
If you ever watched Storm Chasers, the show on Discovery Channel (it is on Netflix) you may know of these guys. Tim Samaras’s team was “TWISTEX” … they drove pickup trucks with extremely well engineered systems for deploying “probes” that would collect data from tornadoes passing overhead. Their methodology was to get in and out before the tornado came through, and to the extent that we can figure out what was going on in real life from the Discovery Channel show, the TWISTEX team was about a 4 on the 1-5 scale of safety consciousness. For storm chasers that is. Some teams have vehicles that allow them to go into storms up to about F3 strength, and others stay way away from the storms, but TWISTEX attempted to put probes in the storm’s path but always avoided direct contact and Tim Samaras seemed especially careful.
It seems that traffic on roads in the vicinity of tornadoes had become an increasingly serious problem for storm chasers working in Tornado Alley. This was due, I think, to a lot of amateur storm chasers flocking to the vicinity where a storm was expected to drop a tornado. But yesterday was worse. According to news reports I saw yesterday, a lot of people in Oklahoma fled oncoming tornadoes in their cars rather than seeking shelter. I’m not sure what possessed them to do this. Certainly, it would not have been recommended by authorities. I’d like to find out what sort of information went around suggesting this to people … Twitter? Ignorant AM radio jockey? … or was it just massy “hysteria.” Anyway, apparently all of the deaths in yesterday’s Tornado were the result of people being in cars in stead of where they should have been. And, it appears that Tim Samaras, his son, and his colleague were killed because they were in the middle of one of these traffic jams.
Yes, people, it turns out that ignorance can be fatal.
Just so you know, a car is not the place you want to be when you are hit by a tornado.