Winnipeg storm chaser mourns tornado hunter’s death in U.S.
A Winnipeg-based storm chaser is among those mourning the deaths of well-known tornado researcher Tim Samaras and two others in the latest violent storm to hit Oklahoma.
Samaras, 55, his 24-year-old son Paul, and fellow storm chaser Carl Young, 45, died while tracking a tornado on Friday night near El Rino.
The exact circumstances of their deaths are not clear, but it appears they were killed in an EF-3 tornado that struck 55 kilometres west of Oklahoma City.
Dave Carlsen, a meteorologist and storm chaser with the University of Manitoba, says he knew Samaras personally and from his work on television.
“I suspect that something went horribly wrong because Tim Samaras would never have put himself in a dangerous situation on purpose. Never,” he told CBC News on Monday.
Carlsen said given Samaras had 30 years of experience and knew what he was doing, he wonders if the trio’s truck somehow could not get away fast enough when the tornado suddenly changed direction.
The weekend storm front was responsible at least 14 deaths from tornadoes and flash floods in Oklahoma, Arkansas and Missouri.
Storm season started a month late
Carlsen said so many storm chasers were pursuing Friday’s storm that heavy traffic might have contributed to the fatal incident.
The storm season usually starts in April, but this year it began in May, he said, adding that the highway near Oklahoma City on Friday was crammed with upwards of perhaps 1,500 vehicles.
“They were really antsy to get out, so any chance to go out and chase storms, they took it,” Carlsen said.
“I guess, because everyone was so antsy, there were just that many more chasers per day on the road.”
Another Canadian storm chaser who knew Samaras was Greg Johnson of Regina, whose truck was struck by debris during one of the Oklahoma tornadoes.
Johnson said it wasn’t until Sunday that he learned Samaras had been killed.
“He’d seen it all and done it all, I mean, his job was to place probes in front of a tornado. Are you kidding me? Like, it doesn’t get more superhero than that,” Johnson said of Samaras.
“We were all shaken about it. Everyone cried about it.”
As dangerous as storm chasing appears to be, deaths are rare, so the latest tragedy has given other chasers pause. Carlsen said some people have been talking about giving it up.
“There are a lot of people [who are] really emotional about it, because the thing about Tim Samaras was that he was a guru about safety,” he said.