Fellow storm chasers pay tribute to Tim Samaras, pioneer in tornado science, killed in Oklahoma

The deaths of tornado researchers Tim Samaras, Paul Samaras and Carl Young are sparking an emotional reaction from colleagues, friends and admirers on social media.

"Spotters paying respects to the late to Tim, Paul, and Carl of Twistex. The meteorological scientists (and genius's) who years ago where the first put (the turtle) probes into tornadoes to collect it's data," Allen Wilson posted on Facebook.

Wilson and others paid tribute to Tim Samaras with radarscope images showing  Samaras' initials.

"This has really shaken up everyone in the storm chasing community, we knew this day would happen someday, but nobody would imagine that it would happen to Tim," Severe Storms Photojournalist Doug Kiesling, told CNN.  “Tim wasn’t one of the guys that would go up close, he would go into the paths, drop probes, and then get out of the way."

"I have known Tim for over 20 years, he was the most brilliant and most careful severe weather researcher of them all. Tim was not a cowboy, he was as cautious as possible about his approach to studying these dangerous storms," said Mike Nelson, 7NEWS Chief Meteorologist, who has worked with Tim in a variety of weather and science projects.

He posted this remembrance on his Facebook page:

"I am struggling to concentrate today upon the deaths of Tim and Paul Samaras and Carl Young.

"I have spoken to Tim's wife, Kathy and his brother, Jim. They are shocked and devastated as you might imagine, but stronger in the face of this than I can imagine.

"Tim died doing what he loved, with people he loved - especially Paul. Kathy was the wind beneath their wings as she embraced and understood the passion that made them chase tornadoes.

"Tim was not only a brilliant scientist and engineer, he was a wonderful, kind human being. If anyone could be called the 'gentleman of storm chasing,' it would be Tim. He was iconic among chasers and yet was a very humble and sincere man.

"I have known Tim for two decades and while I never had the privilege to witness a tornado by his side, I lived vicariously through his amazing videos, Powerpoints, National Geographic articles and the numerous public seminars we presented during the past 20 years (both at KMGH and KUSA).

"Tim was profiled in both of my books on Colorado weather and I feel so honored to have been able to know him and his family. I feel hollow to even try to comprehend their grief.

"The amount of traffic about Tim on Facebook and Twitter is a testimony to what Tim, Paul and Carl meant to the scientific and storm chase community.

"His dear friends and colleagues, Tony Laubach, Roger Hill and Dr. Walt Lyons are deeply saddened and simply shocked by this tragedy. I have talked at length with each of them today.

"The world has lost a truly amazing scientific mind, three very brave men and two families grieve with great pain - as do all of us who are diminished by their passing.," 

Stormchaser Tony Laubach, whose videos are shown on 7NEWS, posted this on his Facebook page:

"There are no words to describe people like this... I couldn't do it when they were here, and it certainly no easier now.  Tim took me under his wing, I was a wide-eyed kid with a few years under me.  I'll never forget the first time he asked me to chase, I was floored.  It's like idolizing your favorite football player and he calls you up to have a catch.  Next thing you know, you're part of a family.

"Paul was goofy, and it was fun to watch him grow over the years.  He was so quiet in the early times, and watch him become someone who could capture a moment so vividly.  He shot one of the most amazing tornado photos I have ever seen hanging out the window of my mesonet car in Oklahoma back in 2011.  Myself and Ed Grubb would always laugh cause we'd take great shots then see Paul's, and just shake our heads cause he just had the talent.  He was quirky, fun, and just so easy going.  He always road along with Ed and I during our missions, and you could count on him to make them all memorable.

"Carl was zany, loved the field, and had a passion he shared so easily and so well with everyone.  He enjoyed the work so much, and it was thrilling to him.  He was our "nugget chaser", the guy who could find the little pieces in a forecast that most people would have no clue to look for.

"And Tim... I cannot speak enough of that man.  He opened his doors to me, and I felt like part of the family.  He saw something in me that I really don't get, why he chose me to ride along with him.  But we clicked, laughed over the long drives, shared some amazing experiences, and most of all taught me as much of what he knew as he could.  Every tornado I have seen, every storm I have experienced, he has had some role, whether he be there or not.  He took me under his wing, and I was honored to be part of the mission he dedicated so much to.  I thanked him often for everything he has done for me, and he has done so much to mold me into what I am today.  I have always had the passion, and I forever will appreciate his desire infuse his own with mine."


“It’s just totally unbelievable what happened because it never should have happened to Tim,” said Caryn Hill, a longtime friend and fellow storm chaser from Bennett. “This is a big hole in the storm chasing community. He’s going to be missed forever.”

ABC News meteorologist Ginger Zee knew Tim Samaras well and said his death was a loss for the community.

"He was a pioneer, he was getting things and teaching us things that no one else could do. This is a guy who was not just a meteorologist, he's an engineer, he's one of the smartest men I have ever met in my life," Zee told ABC.

The Storm Prediction Center issued a statement Sunday, saying it was terribly saddened by Tim Samaras' death.

"Samaras was a respected tornado researcher and friend ... who brought to the field a unique portfolio of expertise in engineering, science, writing and videography," the center's statement said.

"Tragic time for weather science, we lost the best. My heart goes out to everybody who knew and loved Tim Samaras, Carl Young and Paul Samaras. Tim was a close friend, colleague and role model for the last 10 years, and I will miss him terribly. Carl was one of my favorite people in the world, and Paul was a sweet soul with a ton of talent. Thanks for your support in this time of grief," Sean Casey, IMAX film-maker/Storm Chaser, posted on Tim's Facebook page.

Click here to go directly to Tim Samaras' Facebook page and read other tributes: https://www.facebook.com/tim.samaras

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