Sunday, June 2, 2013

I wanted to share a story about Tim Samaras. We were in Iowa at the Des Moines Severe Weather Conference. I had always looked up to Tim thinking he was a great chaser and impressed by the work he had done. I was surprised that he was sitting alone at dinner. (At these conferences people always tend to flock is why at COD conference we have assigned mixed seating:-) I asked him to join us and got to spend the next few hours talking with him. I had known him from chasing and although I had met him a few times in person, knew him mostly from on-line discussions.

He was such a great guy. He was friendly, cordial to my students and spun a great yarn. I thoroughly enjoyed that evening getting to know him. He was a passionate, considerate and encouraging guy. He was humble and patient with everyone. I knew that we shared the passion and love for severe weather. He had a boyish quality when he talked about storms. Something that many of my chase friends share.

I think the last time I really got to talk with him was in Goodland, Kansas after a chase when we stopped at the Pizza Hut for a late night pizza and beer dinner. He had been getting data for a hail storm project he was working on. Usually avoiding the storm, he now got to punch the core on purpose!

Tim was always one to wave and say hi. And I must admit, I will miss the opportunity to meet up with him again. He will be sadly missed.

As chasers, we all do stupid things, and we all make mistakes in judgement. But we also know that the supercell is a whole lot more unpredictable than most will give credit to. When someone of his skill dies, it should make ALL of us stop and worry and rethink what we do. And in this day of in-vehicle radar, maybe take a step back and respect the storms even more. Realizing that chasers are getting a little to casual about getting up-close and personal. In the old days, before GRlevel3, I know that I was a lot more afraid, knowing how little I knew. Now I think I know more than I probably do. And I know a heckuva lot more about storms than most chasers. And i amazes me what some chasers will do.

I hope that Tim's death provides a lesson that all chasers will heed. We are still powerless. The storm ought to be respected and that what we do is dangerous. Foolish behavior has no place on the highways of tornado alley.

And for heaven's sake, chasers ought to think 4 times before they think they know enough to always be safe. And damn it, let's learn more about what is really happening in the storm.  I am sick and tired of too many shows telling the wrong thing about storm structure. And encouraging chasers to go out. This rant will be for another time, but the reality is that some of the reports of a large wedge, not save lives. It was clear on radar that this was a fricking beast of a storm. I knew that bad things were happening. I am not sure that people's lives were saved  because there were visual reports of the storm. People in Oklahoma should know when the NWS says a very dangerous tornado is occurring, they should respect that.

I am rambling because I have so many thoughts going through my brain. I am a chaser but I hate what chasing has become. But I cannot blame people for wanting to see what I see. And I am sorry for the mess much of the media makes with live reports. Tornado voyeurism. And I am very sorry that people die in tornadoes and there really is not much we can do to save everyone one.

And I miss Tim.


MattZ said...

Optimism bias is largely to blame for the tragedy on Friday. Some people accuse the tornado for behaving erratically and catching chasers off guard, but when you deliberately position yourself in close proximity to a dynamic structure like a tornado for either research, sensational video, or both, your odds of survival approach zero.

I greatly admired Tim's passion for chasing, but I find it hard to justify his actions that day in the name of research. He endured several close encounters before which should have been a red flag for future close endeavors.

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