Veteran storm chaser Tim Samaras, along with his son Paul and colleague Chris Young, were killed over the weekend by a tornado in El Reno, Oklahoma.
The details of the accident are still sketchy — one meteorologist described the storm as a “wobbler” that took an unexpected turn.
But according to Warren Faidley, a longtime fellow storm chaser and survival expert, Samaras wasn’t one of the “idiots” now swelling the profession’s ranks — his work was important and scientific.
This new breed of chasers is different. They get dispatched by local news affiliates to get the most extreme footage possible, with the goal of racking up pageviews for the stations’ websites, he told us.
Samaras’ chases were science based, he said, with the goal of collecting data about what happens at the surface of the storm that causes it to intensify. He would have taken every possible precaution to avoid the storm’s direct path. NOAA put out a statement on June 3 calling the deaths the first “scientific storm-intercept fatalities” ever recorded.
But the new breed of chaser is making the profession more dangerous, Faidley says, as their growing numbers clog access roads. He says he may never chase near Oklahoma City again.
“I’m sure I’m not the only one,” he said.
But he fears more fatalities are likely.
“I think the flood gates are open,” he said, “more people want to do this.”
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