We are all in shock and mourning this Sunday, for our colleague Tim Samaras, his son and his long time chase partner. Tim, Paul Samaras and Carl Young were chasing the El Reno, OK tornado on Friday. Many chasers pursued this storm and got much too close to an especially violent and erratic behaving tornado. This morning, word is spreading that the three died along with several others.
I think I can speak for everyone in this profession when I say the only thing that matches our heartbreak is the shock and disbelief. There are a lot of people who get way too close to these things but I never thought Tim was one of them. He was greatly respected for his focus on the science rather than simply capturing video.
His expeditions didn’t just provide groundbreaking data on tornadoes, but hail, lightning and much more. He was a scientist first, and chaser second in my mind. He is one of the reasons I was drawn to this practice. Growing up scared of storms, I wanted to learn all I could about them and that’s something he really did.
To the general public, he was the guy on the Discovery Channel show. But to us, he was a researcher we all looked up to. He was fascinated with storms, and showed us that passion never went away with time. He was a symbol of the greater good that can come from chasing and I don’t think anyone thought something like this could happen to him.
We don’t yet know exactly what led to Tim and his team’s death. We can speculate that poor judgment or an unexpected tornado played a role, but we just don’t know. I know that every chaser in the game is rattled today and really looking at the way they operate too. If that is indeed the case, I hope the day will come that we can manage to find the good that will come from this. Reed Timmer always talks about “Never Stop Chasing.” He’s right. The loss of a colleague in combat of these terrible storms should not deter us, it should embolden us. Not to take unnecessary risks but to continue the fight. That fight is a battle to learn what makes horrible storms like this happen. I for one will continue that work, for Tim and everyone else.
I did not know Tim as well as some of my colleagues, but I was honored to meet him three years ago. He was very giving of his time and loved to share his information with others. We lost a giant whose experience and expertise cannot be calculated nor replaced. There is one simple thing we as storm chasers can do to honor his work…continue it.
Thanks for your time Tim, thanks for your work as well as Paul’s and Carl’s. The road won’t be the same without you.