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OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla.—The Friday deaths of three nationally-known and well-reputed storm chasers in the cluster of tornadoes that hit Oklahoma City has many in the field of meteorology shaken and many explaining again that highways are not the place to be when a tornado is on the way.
One of the chasers killed was 55-year-old Tim Samaras, whose tornado-chasing, scientific expeditions were funded in part by Hyperion Technology Group, based in Tupelo. For that company, Samaras was working on developing TWISTEX, or Tactical Weather Instrumented Sampling in Tornadoes EXperiment. The technology is meant to advance how tornadoes are tracked.
Hyperion’s website showed they deal with manufacturing and industrial technologies, along with meteorological sensor development.
Samaras also worked, in part, for National Geographic. That company released this statement:
We are shocked and deeply saddened… [Samaras] was a courageous and brilliant scientist who fearlessly pursued tornadoes and lightning … in an effort to better understand these phenomena.
Samaras, his son Paul and Carl Young were the first three scientific storm chasers ever to be killed while documenting and researching a tornado. They were three of 13 who died in Friday’s storms. Samaras was known as one of the safest storm chasers, who refused to take risks while chasing, even for the Discovery Channel, who infamously asked him to make it more dramatic, according to some accounts.
While Weather Channel Meteorologist Mike Bettes and his colleagues have taken sharp criticism from other TV weathermen for perhaps purposefully driving into the tornado, passing several parked vehicles to get to the storm on the video, it appears Samaras’ team may have just ended up stuck in the wrong place at the wrong time.