Three Storm Chasers Among 10 Killed by Oklahoma Tornado

Sunday, 02 Jun 2013 03:20 PM

By Sandy Fitzgerald

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Three men whose work tracking tornadoes was featured on the former Discovery Channel show "Storm Chasers" were killed during Friday night's tornadoes in El Reno, Okla., their relatives reported Sunday.

Tim Samaras, his son Paul Samaras, and Carl Young were among the nine victims claimed in a string of tornadoes that hit Oklahoma Friday night, their relatives told CNN.

"They all unfortunately passed away but doing what they loved," Jim Samaras wrote in a statement on his brother's Facebook page.

Tim Samaras is the founder of TWISTEX, short for the Tactical Weather Instrumented Sampling in Tornadoes Experiment, which researched tornadoes in hopes of increasing time for warnings.

While Samaras had said that being near storms was part of his job, CNN meteorologist Chad Myers, who was also in Oklahoma covering the stormson Friday, said the TWISTEX founder was known for his attention to safety.

"There's just no one safer than Tim," said Myers. "He would never put himself in danger. He certainly wouldn't put his son in danger."

Myers said that it would be wrong to portray Samaras as "just a chaser out for a thrill," and that he was a scientist who "was out there to learn and understand and to make science more understandable."

El Reno Mayor Matt White stressed the importance of staying indoors when strong storms hit.

"We had to deal with not only strong winds, but we had extreme hail, extreme softball-size hail," White said. "El Reno had a lot of damage to the roads. In these situations, we can't stress enough to people to stay inside and do what the weather men and women tell us to do."

But Mike Bettes, an anchor and meteorologist for The Weather Channel, said Friday's storm was unpredictable. He and his own crew had a close call themselves, when the tornado threw their truck 200 yards into a field.

"I think this was just an erratic tornado. I think the size of it and the speed of it changed very, very quickly," Bettes told CNN. "I think the direction of movement changed quickly. And I think there were a lot of people out there that, you know, ended up getting stuck in positions we didn't want to be in."

Bettes said the incident left him unsure if he'll chase storms again, but emphasized professional storm chasing is valuable.

"A lot of times the storm spotters out there serve a very valuable purpose," he said. "Seeing it in person, seeing it for real, and giving that real time information, I think really supplements the warning. It helps people take shelter ahead of time."

"Storm Chasers" was on The Discovery Channel for five years, airing its last season in the fall of 2011.

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