The tornado in the classic movie “The Wizard of Oz” fascinated a then-6-year-old Tim Samaras, his brother said. “He didn’t give a crap about Toto, he didn’t give a crap about the munchkins,” Jim Samaras said.
Laubach said Tim Samaras, as an engineer, was interested in using storm research to make homes more storm-resistant.
“The data collected can go a long way with forecast models even down to building better structures that are able to withstand tornadic winds more,” Laubach told the AP.
The storm hit Oklahoma City during rush hour. High winds swept several vehicles off roads — including one from The Weather Channel that was tossed 200 yards and flipped without causing serious injuries.
“This is a very sad day for the meteorological community and the families of our friends lost. Tim Samaras was a pioneer and great man,” Weather Channel meteorologist Jim Cantore tweeted Sunday.
Ed Grubb, a chaser who works with Twistex at times, told the AP that Tim Samaras did not take unnecessary risks.
“We hope that we can find out exactly what happened here so that we can have some closure and so we can better understand,” he said. “So that when other researchers are in the field, if there was a mistake, they can take the necessary actions to keep this from happening again.”
The Discovery Channel, which featured Tim Samaras on “Storm Chasers” until last year, planned to dedicate a show Sunday evening to the three men, noting they died “doing what they love, chasing storms.”
The National Geographic Society called Tim Samaras a “courageous and brilliant scientist” and posted on its website an interview conducted with him last month.
“Being close to a tornado is one of those incredible, fleeting moments that sometimes you have to take a couple of seconds to take in,” he said in the interview. He told the magazine there were probably fewer than five storm chasers who pursue tornadoes for data.
“On a big tornado day in Oklahoma, you can have hundreds of storm chasers lined up down the road,” he said. “Oklahoma is considered the mecca of storm chasing. We know ahead of time when we chase in Oklahoma, there’s going to be a traffic jam.”
The Storm Prediction Center said scientific storm chasing is performed as safely as possible, with trained researchers using appropriate technology. It encouraged all, including the media and amateurs, to chase safely to avoid a repeat of Friday’s deaths.