Sunday, June 2, 2013
Tim Samaras, Carl Young, and Paul Samaras
photos of Tim Samaras above by Jon Davies (c) 2005
My wife Shawna woke me this morning to tell me my researcher friends Tim Samaras and Carl Young, and Tim's son Paul were killed in Friday's tornado near El Reno OK. I am in shock and deep sadness. My heart truly goes out to Tim's wife Kathy and his family. My condolences go out to Carl's family as well. I can not imagine...
My blog has been on hiatus due to family stuff and selling a house over the past year. The last post I made was about Tim's lightning research article in Nat Geo magazine this past August. Now sorrowfully, this.
I don't know the exact circumstances, but the roads were very crowded on Friday. As Shawna and I watched the rain-wrapped tornado to our north, changing direction from southeast to northeast near El Reno and highways 81 and I-40, we were quiet. At one point earlier, Shawna had even said, "I'm afraid some chasers are going to die today." I would never have believed it would be Tim and Carl and Paul.
I can only imagine that they got caught in the chaser and local congestion as the hard-to-see tornado suddenly moved leftward. Tim and Carl were gentlemen, very considerate/ compassionate people, always balancing chasing safety and setting a good example with their up-close research work. They would have let others get out of the way on a crowded road before themselves, unlike some other "me first" people I saw driving on Friday.
There's something of a tendency to over-eulogize people when they pass on, but Tim and Carl were truly first and foremost a class act, willing to talk to anyone, not caught up in any storm chaser "celebrity". I always looked forward to seeing Tim and Carl. And Paul was just coming into his own with humor and a passion for learning about storms, like his dad. It goes without saying that Tim was a pioneering scientist and engineer, a ground-breaker, incredibly creative and cutting-edge. I will always have the greatest respect for him.
One of the great experiences of my life was a 10-day period in June 2005 accompanying Tim and Carl on one of their expeditions funded by Nat Geo. We drove from Kansas to the Dakotas and back to Kansas and down to Texas, and then to Iowa, seeing so many tornadoes I lost count. We came close on a couple probe hits, but what stays with me is Tim's boundless energy and focus and enthusiasm. He and Carl were on another level than me, and they greatly inspired me in my empirical forecasting work. I was extremely honored that they asked me to go with them.
My hope is that Tim's and Carl's and Paul's deaths with serve as a permanent reminder that storm chasing is serious serious business, and not the "fun/exciting" competitive game for notoriety that so many want to make it. If smart, knowledgeable, dynamic scientists of Tim and Carl and Paul's character met their final encounter, it should make us pause. Mother Nature is dangerous and unpredictable, and that should jolt us back to a huge respect for the forces of the atmosphere. It should also motivate us to continue emphasizing severe weather safety and great research, Tim's true distinction and legacy.
Tim and Carl and Paul have left an enduring mark on severe weather science forever, both professionally and personally. I will miss them more than words can say.
- Jon Davies 6/2/13