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Thread: Storm chaser: Tim Samaras

  1. #51
    Join Date
    Apr 2008
    Connecticut, You know home of ESPN
    Holy crap! I just realized his son was with him and killed as well. His poor wife.

    "I will be buried in a spring loaded casket filled with confetti, and a future archaeologist will have one awesome day at work."

  2. #52
    Join Date
    Mar 2012
    I'm surprised this doesn't happen more often. Or maybe we just don't hear about it.
    "Death has come to your little town, Sheriff."

  3. #53
    Join Date
    Dec 2010
    The National Weather Service has released a video explaining what went wrong for Tim, his crew, and others.

  4. #54
    Join Date
    Feb 2013
    Tulsa, OK
    I live in Oklahoma and I consider myself an amateur storm chaser. Like many storm enthusiasts I was devastated to hear of the death of several chasers from the 5/31/2013 El Reno tornado. They were the first to die in the "line of duty" so to speak; it had been actually considered a fairly safe hobby compared to skydiving, mountain climbing etc. I had assumed there might be a thread here but haven't looked for it until now.

    As a chaser, this tragedy makes you reconsider if you are really at a safe distance from a tornado. Having said that, it is actually quite difficult to get close to one (on purpose). I've only done it once in my entire career, getting within a half mile of an EF-2 tornado. It sounded like a waterfall in the distance.

    But anyway the El Reno tornado was in a class by itself. It not only is the widest on record at 2.6 miles maximum, it expanded to that width very quickly from what had been a still impressive mile wide wedge. Several chasers were between one and two miles away and thought they were at a safe distance. However two chase vehicles were north of it, driving east alongside it when it not only expanded but made a left turn, coming right at them. A worst case scenario for them.. one escaped, and one just behind them did not.

    The ones that did not are the Twistex chase team, and although they are not the only chasers who died they are the most well known tragedy from this day. All three chasers from that vehicle died, including their team leader Tim Samaras, who was known and respected in the chaser community as being foremost a scientist and especially cautious. Tragically Tim's son Paul was one of the other chasers in the car who also perished.

    The other chaser just ahead of them did escape, Dan Robinson, who was not part of their team and was driving alone. He is also a well known chaser and posted a thorough account of his escape, including video. It is quite harrowing, as can be seen here ( He was caught in the outer circulation and felt his vehicle being almost pulled in. Then after he thought he had escaped danger and stopped to film it outside his car, it turned out that he was still in the tornado's invisible circulation. As the edge approached with the circulation actually leaving him, it left with a parting shot. He was knocked aside by 100 mph wind gusts (weak by comparison with the main wedge which was measured about 300 mph by mobile radar) and he got a black eye from wind driven hail. Also his back window was smashed out.

    What a wicked storm. Now since I'm posting here, there is a death hag angle to my post. I am reluctant to delve into it too deeply, as it certainly hits close to home. However enough years have passed that I feel a little more comfortable discussing it. Dan had a rear facing camera on his vehicle, and he says he recorded the last images of the Twistex team disappearing into the tornado a few hundred yards behind him. He says he has chosen not to release the video out of respect for the victims' families. I completely respect that. He says the video is not graphic, which means you probably can't see their vehicle leave the road, but moments later it did as it was found crumpled off the road later. Tim was found dead still buckled in the passenger seat, while the other two chasers were found after being ejected, near each other face down in a field. The fact that one of them was ejected from the back seat tells you how violently their vehicle was tossed and rolled.

    Another video was taken by Tim's son Paul. It could have ended up recording their last moments, but as it turns out either the memory or battery ran out one minute before the tornado struck them. Still, due to the sensitive nature of the tape's recording the moments leading up to their demise, this video has also not been made public aside from brief excerpts during the Twistex team's chase. Evidently the only person to see the full video (aside from family I assume) is Gabe Garfield, a fellow chaser who also worked for the National Weather Service and helped reconstruct a post event analysis for the NWS. More details are here ( in a one-year anniversary National Geographic article. Tim received funding from National Geographic for his chasing and scientific study of tornadoes; Tim invented "turtles" which are conical data probes he placed in front of tornadoes. It is speculated that even though he was cautious, he was as close as he was with the intention of leaving probes in front of the tornado. He and his team truly sacrificed everything in the pursuit of science, and I admire them for it while deeply sorry and sad for their passing.

    P.S. Here is an image from another National Geographic article, which seems to be a screenshot at the last moment the headlights of the Twistex team can be seen behind Dan Robinson. The view is looking west. Both Twistex and Dan are inside the larger circulation of the tornado at this point. A large black suction vortex has formed south of the road and is likely what took out the Twistex vehicle.
    Last edited by dionyzus; 11-13-2019 at 05:48 PM.

  5. #55
    Join Date
    Sep 2012
    Sad stuff. Our elementary school kids have a big book about Tim Samaras that was written before the storm. I had to tell them that he was killed in a tornado. Just really shows you the power of nature.
    The reason a dog has so many friends is because he wags his tail instead of his tongue.

  6. #56
    Join Date
    Oct 2007
    That's a great post, dionyzus.
    Good info and links; thanks.
    A faulty hypothesis forming:
    A German scientist using Iranian physics and French mathematics.

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