Tornado Scientist Tim Samaras and Team Killed in Friday's El Reno, OK Tornado

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 5:43 PM GMT on June 02, 2013

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Veteran tornado scientist Tim Samaras, his son, environmental photographer Paul Samaras, 24, and meteorologist Carl Young, 45, died while chasing Friday's EF-3 tornado in El Reno, Oklahoma. The tornado killed at least nine people, in total. "Thank you to everyone for the condolences. It truly is sad that we lost my great brother Tim and his great son, Paul," said the brother of Tim Samaras, Jim Samaras, on Tim's Facebook page. "They all unfortunately passed away but doing what they LOVED." Tim, his son Paul, and Carl Young were all featured chasers on the Discovery Channel’s series, Storm Chasers, and Tim was known throughout the chase community as a conscientious and safety-minded chaser. Carl Young, who holds a Masters degree in meteorology from the University of Nevada, joined Samaras in the field in 2003. According to his Discovery Channel biography, Young and Samaras chased over 125 tornadoes together: "Carl's finest moment came on June 11, 2004 near Storm Lake, Iowa. Working with Tim, they defied the odds and deployed their probes right in the path of a tornado. The six-camera video probe captured amazing footage from multiple angles while the sensor probe recorded data that revealed just how fast wind speeds are close to the ground."


Figure 1. TWC's Mike ‪Bettes‬ crew caught this image of the El Reno, Oklahoma tornado of May 31, 2013 before the tornado caught them and rolled their vehicle. The tornado killed tornado scientists/storm chasers Tim Samaras, Paul Samaras, and Carl Young.


Figure 2. Storm chasers in North Dakota aligned themselves to spell out "T S" in honor of Tim Samaras today. Image credit: spotternetwork.org.

Tornado science loses a pioneer
Tim Samaras had been a tornado scientist for over 25 years. He was the founder of TWISTEX, the Tactical Weather Instrumented Sampling in Tornadoes Experiment, a 2011 field experiment designed to help learn more about tornadoes and increase lead time for warnings, which resulted in many peer-reviewed publications and conference presentations. One of Tim Samaras' most widely recognized contributions to tornado science is his placement of an aerodynamically-designed probe in the path of an EF-4 tornado near Manchester, South Dakota on June 24, 2003. The probe measured a world-record pressure fall of 100 mb over a 40 second period.

One of the publications from the TWISTEX program, "Near-Ground Pressure and Wind Measurements in Tornadoes" recounts this close call Tim had in a tornado in 2011: "As the storm approached, the crew noted that the supercell was moving more sharply to the right of its former course, placing them near the projected path of the low-level mesocyclone. The crew drove south on Highway 259, attempting to position south of the low-level mesocyclone before it crossed the highway. With considerable tree cover in this region hampering the visual observation of the storm's features, TWISTEX crews could not position south of the mesocyclone on Highway 259 before the mesocyclone reached this road. Thus, the two mobile mesonet stations, M2 and M3, had an unplanned tornado encounter with a developing tornadic circulation while the mesonet was traveling south on Highway 259."


Figure 3. One of Tim Samaras' most widely recognized contributions to tornado science is his placement of an aerodynamically-designed probe in the path of an EF-4 tornado near Manchester, South Dakota on June 24, 2003. The probe measured a world-record pressure fall of 100 mb over a 40 second period. See the NWS article and conference paper on the event. Thanks to wunderground member Scott Lincoln for this link.

A storm chasers' nightmare
Cars and tornadoes can prove a dangerous mix even for the world's most experienced storm chasers. Driving at high speeds though heavy rain, large hail, and high winds is hazardous. If one is lucky enough to chase down a tornado, even the most experienced chasers can find themselves in a serious life-threatening situation when unexpected events occur. The exact circumstances of the deaths of Tim Samaras and his team are not clear, but the El Reno tornado was an extremely dangerous one to chase. Tornadoes by their nature are unpredictable, and can change course unexpectedly, or pop up suddenly. It's particularly dangerous when a tornado is wrapped in rain, making it hard to see, or if a chaser is operating in a heavily populated area, where roads may suddenly become congested. All four of these conditions occurred Friday during the El Reno tornado. The El Reno tornado was wrapped in rain and difficult to see as it headed west towards Oklahoma City, and suddenly made a jog to the southeast as a Weather Channel team led by Mike Bettes was attempting to get in front of the storm, and the tornado lifted their vehicle off the ground, rolled it multiple times, and hurled it 200 yards into a nearby field. Austin Anderson was driving the Tornado Hunt vehicle, and suffered several broken bones and was hospitalized. Although Austin will have to undergo surgery in the next few days, doctors say he is expected to make a full recovery. StormChasingVideo.com storm chaser Brandon Sullivan and his chase partner Brett Wright got caught in the tornado northwest of Union City, OK and slammed with debris as the tornado hit a barn that exploded in front of them. Meteorologist Emily Sutton and storm chaser Kevin Josefy of local Oklahoma City TV station KFOR also had a very close call with the El Reno tornado Friday afternoon. They got too close to the tornado, and were forced to floor the car in reverse to escape flying debris. With branches of trees crashing around them, Sutton began feeling debris hitting her back, and realized that the rear windshield of the car must have gotten destroyed. Both were uninjured. Reed Timmer's armor-plated "Dominator" chase vehicle had its hood torn off by the tornado. Wunderground member Levi32 was out storm chasing during the El Reno Tornado, and got stuck in traffic on Highway 4 and couldn't move. "We looked up above the car and saw the wall cloud over top of us, with very quick rotation and rising scud indicating the updraft. We were definitely too close."


Video 1. Severe storm researcher and engineer Tim Samaras talks about his view on tornadoes and what remains to be understood in this interview posted on May 21, 2013.


Video 2. A tornado passes over one of Tim Samaras' specially designed six-camera video probes on June 11, 2004 near Storm Lake, Iowa.

Tornadoes and cars: a dangerous mix
A vehicle is about the worst place you can be in a tornado, as the tornado's winds can easily roll a car. (The only place less safe is probably a mobile home, as a tornado's winds can roll mobile homes almost as readily, and mobile homes don't come with seat belts and air bags.) At least five of the deaths in Friday's El Reno tornado occurred in vehicles. There was one local TV station that urged residents without underground shelters to get in their cars and "get south" in advance of the tornado that was approaching Oklahoma City, since chasers were reporting that the El Reno tornado may have been so strong that only an underground shelter would have provided adequate protection. This terrible piece of advice likely contributed to the incredible traffic jams that we saw on I-35, I-40, I-44, and other local roads Friday night. Thousands of cars were bumper-to-bumper on the roads as a dangerous tornado approached them. Had the El Reno tornado plowed directly down one of these car-choked interstates, the death toll could have easily exceeded 500. If you are located in a metro area and don't have an underground shelter, the best thing to do it to take shelter in an interior windowless room or hallway, with protective furniture over your body. Getting in a car and attempting to flee the tornado is the worst thing you can do in an urban area. You may not be able to see the tornado if it is dark or the tornado is wrapped in rain. You are likely to encounter hazardous winds, rain, and hail, run into unexpected traffic, or flooded or debris-blocked roads that will put you directly in the path of the tornado. Even without an underground shelter, most people will be able to survive a dangerous EF-4 tornado. Case in point: during the Mannsford, Oklahoma EF- 4 tornado of 1984, a packed church received a direct hit, and everyone in the church survived. The only fatality was a man who drove to the church to get his wife. It is often better to abandon your vehicle and take shelter in a ditch, if you are caught in a car during a tornado. However, if there is already flying debris in the air, leaving your car and exposing yourself to the debris in order to get to a ditch may be more hazardous than staying in your car. Furthermore, ditches are prone to flash floods. Four deaths during the El Reno tornado were from a family of seven that sheltered in a drainage ditch, and were washed into the Deep Fork River by a flash flood. Searchers are still looking for the other three bodies. A 2002 research paper, "UNSAFE AT ANY (WIND) SPEED? Testing the Stability of Motor Vehicles in Severe Winds" found that: "The stability and superior safety of being in a vehicle in severe winds, relative to occupying a mobile home or being outdoors, should be considered." Also, TWC's severe weather expert, Dr. Greg Forbes, commented on the pros and cons of abandoning one's vehicle for a ditch in a 2009 blog post, "Tornado Safety - Cars Versus Ditches: A Controversy." His personal take on what he would do if his car was being overtaken by a tornado, and no sturdy buildings were nearby to take shelter in: "I can't see myself getting out of the vehicle. I'd try first to drive away from the tornado. Both the NWS and the American Red Cross actually also advocate this. If you can determine which way the tornado is moving toward, face your body toward that direction and then go to the right, as shown in the diagram below. That is usually toward the south or southeast. The reason that it's best to head this way is that if you went to the left you would normally get into the region where largest hail and blinding rain occur in the kind of supercell, rotating thunderstorms that often spawn tornadoes. If I had no such driving option and I did feel the urge to get out of my car, I'd try to get into a building, and into a ditch well away from the car as the last resort."

My condolences and prayers go to all of the family and friends of Tim Samaras, Paul Samaras, and Carl Young. Their deaths are a terrible shock to the meteorological community, and a great loss for tornado science. I hope that their deaths will lead towards safer tornado chasing, and help spur efforts to use emerging drone technology to take measurements in dangerous storms such as tornadoes and hurricanes.

Jeff Masters

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Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Now its all up to KOUN to see if they use the data or not.

It took a while for them to reluctantly use the 113 m/s wind in the 2010 El Reno tornado

Personally with the 293+ knot velocities, I think its likely.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
See, the minute you said your name I remember all the teasing... lol...

Now I can go to sleep in peace.
Member Since: October 25, 2005 Posts: 19 Comments: 22561
Quoting CybrTeddy:


Source? Interesting that the NWS didn't agree.


Source please?

And the data isn't for public use.

Only accessible for OUN Met students and researchers

Meteorologists:

"Update: Sounds like there was VORTEX2-type radar coverage on yesterday's supercell. DOWs, 3 OU groups, Tech, NSSL all were on it. Good news."

http://i300.photobucket.com/albums/nn39/Stormchas er20079/American%20Stuff/ScreenHunter_52Jun030001. png


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Night guys :)
I know I just started commenting, but I didn't make this account until late last night, and so my 24 hour "Newbie Ban" from Dr. Masters blog just expired.
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Quoting Stormchaser2007:


Tim/Paul/Carl were not "reckless". They were actually trying to conduct a very important project and were compromised by a multi-vortex tornado with winds well over 100 m/s (confirmed by at least TWO OUN research teams). They dedicated their lives to trying to improve warnings and save other peoples lives and aren't even close to the idiots that are getting all the attention on CNN and TWC.

Tim was one of the best chasers in the history of the business and shouldn't even be mentioned in the same sentence as Bettes.

Could we get a source for this please? TIA.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting BahaHurican:
Aha... Tyler... that is easy to remember...

Actually, I remember Ive said my name once before on the blog, Gro and TA may remember, but anyway. :) Back to Blogging as usual :)
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Quoting TylerStanfield:
Hey Everyone. Im new here so, just want to say Hi. :)

Wink wink. LOL So How's it going?


Ah, you reminded me of a quote from another forum.

"You will never leave (insert creepy look)"
well, unless you screw up.

But welcome.
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Aha... Tyler... that is easy to remember...
Member Since: October 25, 2005 Posts: 19 Comments: 22561
Quoting stormchaser19:


TylerStanfield=HurricaneDean07

Thanks for the Clarification. ;)
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting NCHurricane2009:
Hey guys...

Looks like our new Invest (91-L) is organizing a bit tonight....

Now...I am thinking we are going to have a weak tropical depression or tropical storm to watch with this one this week....here is my best guess on what could happen...

I am thinking next 24 hours...as central US upper trough pushes eastward across Gulf...the favorable upper ridge center will be pushed southeast into the western Caribbean...and I think the broad circulation will relocate/regenerate southeastward from its current Yucatan position into the NW Caribbean as a result.

Models then show the upper ridge re-building over the NW Caribbean & Cuba behind the departing central US upper trough and ahead of the next upper trough...so I am thinking this thing will slowly organize into a tropical cyclone beneath this upper ridge between 48 and 96 hrs from now...all the while being stationary and bringing lots of rain to west Cuba...Florida Keys...south Florida...and western Bahamas....

Between 96 and 120 hrs...the next upper trough pushes in and pulls the tropical cyclone NE across west Cuba/south Florida area...into the W Atlantic where it then becomes frontal...

That's the Best case scenario. Worst Case is that the low stays disorganized, sheared and stays an open trough and drenches Florida and the East Coast.
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Quoting AussieStorm:

100m/s = 223.69mph = 360km/h = 194.38kts


I know that rofl, I can read fluent metric.
Member Since: July 8, 2005 Posts: 259 Comments: 24457
Quoting TylerStanfield:
Hey Everyone. Im new here so, just want to say Hi. :)

Wink wink. LOL So How's it going?


TylerStanfield=HurricaneDean07
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Quoting Thrawst:


The standing water on the road by our airport is just unbelievable.
Sorry, just had to say that to you :p
I'm not surprised... I went out there last week after the first round, and was astounded to see how much water was in the road near Coral Harbour, but not in the actual airport itself. If you understand that that entire area was originally the western edge of the Lake Killarney swamps, you might not be so surprised. The reckless and unstructured paving out there hasn't helped...
Member Since: October 25, 2005 Posts: 19 Comments: 22561
Quoting TylerStanfield:
Hey Everyone. Im new here so, just want to say Hi. :)

Wink wink. LOL So How's it going?

Welcome to the blog, glad to have someone new, lol :P

The new account sounds/looks good.

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Still looks like 2 circulations kinda dumbelling around each other,the northern one by cancun looked to just fire a storm near its center......and the other one is SSE of cancun....just my old eyes
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Quoting CybrTeddy:


Source? Interesting that the NWS didn't agree.
Might because it's higher up in tornado. Scott earlier said DOW is usually sampling higher up in tornado.
Member Since: August 1, 2011 Posts: 28 Comments: 8041
Anyway, yeah yeah RIP Dean07... I get it sad times. :)
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69 hr

75 hr, wtf with the GFS?
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Hey Everyone. Im new here so, just want to say Hi. :)

Wink wink. LOL So How's it going?
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Quoting KoritheMan:


Bettes is experienced with hurricanes, not tornadoes. Big difference.
Didn't mean generally [though it did come across that way, din in?]. I will edit.
Member Since: October 25, 2005 Posts: 19 Comments: 22561
Quoting CybrTeddy:


Source? Interesting that the NWS didn't agree.

100m/s = 223.69mph = 360km/h = 194.38kts
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting BahaHurican:
dunt dunt dunt dunt


The standing water on the road by our airport is just unbelievable.
Sorry, just had to say that to you :p
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Hey guys...

Looks like our new Invest (91-L) is organizing a bit tonight....

Now...I am thinking we are going to have a weak tropical depression or tropical storm to watch with this one this week....here is my best guess on what could happen...

I am thinking next 24 hours...as central US upper trough pushes eastward across Gulf...the favorable upper ridge center will be pushed southeast into the western Caribbean...and I think the broad circulation will relocate/regenerate southeastward from its current Yucatan position into the NW Caribbean as a result.

Models then show the upper ridge re-building over the NW Caribbean & Cuba behind the departing central US upper trough and ahead of the next upper trough...so I am thinking this thing will slowly organize into a tropical cyclone beneath this upper ridge between 48 and 96 hrs from now...all the while being stationary and bringing lots of rain to west Cuba...Florida Keys...south Florida...and western Bahamas....

Between 96 and 120 hrs...the next upper trough pushes in and pulls the tropical cyclone NE across west Cuba/south Florida area...into the W Atlantic where it then becomes frontal...
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
54 hr

60 hr?
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting BahaHurican:
Bettes still has a lot to learn.


Bettes is experienced with hurricanes, not tornadoes. Big difference.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
dunt dunt dunt dunt
Member Since: October 25, 2005 Posts: 19 Comments: 22561
Quoting Stormchaser2007:


Tim/Paul/Carl were not "reckless". They were actually trying to conduct a very important project and were compromised by a multi-vortex tornado with winds well over 100 m/s (confirmed by at least TWO OUN research teams). They dedicated their lives to trying to improve warnings and save other peoples lives and aren't even close to the idiots that are getting all the attention on CNN and TWC.

Tim was one of the best chasers in the history of the business and shouldn't even be mentioned in the same sentence as Bettes.


Everyone is allowed an opinion, it might not be correct but they are allowed it.

Most of us know what Tim Samaras and his crew were about. They weren't storm chasers but Tornado scientist.

Remembering Tim Samaras: Veteran Storm Chaser Killed in Okla. Tornado

Video
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Quoting Stormchaser2007:


Tim/Paul/Carl were not "reckless". They were actually trying to conduct a very important project and were compromised by a multi-vortex tornado with winds well over 100 m/s (confirmed by at least TWO OUN research teams). They dedicated their lives to trying to improve warnings and save other peoples lives and aren't even close to the idiots that are getting all the attention on CNN and TWC.

Tim was one of the best chasers in the history of the business and shouldn't even be mentioned in the same sentence as Bettes.
Bettes still has a lot to learn about tornado chasing and research.
Member Since: October 25, 2005 Posts: 19 Comments: 22561
Quoting Stormchaser2007:


Tim/Paul/Carl were not "reckless". They were actually trying to conduct a very important project and were compromised by a multi-vortex tornado with winds well over 100 m/s (confirmed by at least TWO OUN research teams). They dedicated their lives to trying to improve warnings and save other peoples lives and aren't even close to the idiots that are getting all the attention on CNN and TWC.

Tim was one of the best chasers in the history of the business and shouldn't even be mentioned in the same sentence as Bettes.


Source? Interesting that the NWS didn't agree.
Member Since: July 8, 2005 Posts: 259 Comments: 24457
Quoting HurricaneDean07:
Last Comment. :) Its been Great Everybody.
RIP HurricaneDean07 account... October 2010 to June 2013. 4,130 comments well spent on this blog. We shall miss it.
Member Since: August 1, 2011 Posts: 28 Comments: 8041
Quoting Walshy:
Where is StormW?

You'll never find Him on this blog again after what happened on this blog a few years ago. But you can find him >> here <<
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45 hr
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Last Comment. :) Its been Great Everybody.
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Quoting FunnelVortex:
With the death of Tim Samarras and his son, as well as Mike Bettes' close call, I am thinking stormchasers are being a bit reckless this year.


Tim/Paul/Carl were not "reckless". They were actually trying to conduct a very important project and were compromised by a multi-vortex tornado with winds well over 100 m/s (confirmed by at least TWO OUN research teams). They dedicated their lives to trying to improve warnings and save other peoples lives and aren't even close to the idiots that are getting all the attention on CNN and TWC.

Tim was one of the best chasers in the history of the business and shouldn't even be mentioned in the same sentence as Bettes.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting Chicklit:

He's been saying the same thing for hours
Bogus
anyway, night all
He's waiting for the 24 hr wait period to expire...
Member Since: October 25, 2005 Posts: 19 Comments: 22561
00z GFS 24 hours
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Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:

You lied! You said the post before this post was your last post but it wasn't your last post!!

He's been saying the same thing for hours
Bogus
anyway, night all
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:

You lied! You said the post before this post was your last post but it wasn't your last post!!

;) I meant to add that to the comment, just forgot. The next one I make will be my last ;)
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Omg I hate when my country takes off the lights in my city humidity is being such a bug right now and I can tolerate the hot weather right now is unbelivable.
ps if anyone comes to Honduras remember that blackouts are constant and specially in Summer.
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Quoting HurricaneDean07:

People blame that Storm chasers are being "More Reckless" but this was a very difficult and rare event to deal with. There was a lot of factors that brought this whole mess into the bad situation that trapped many on the Highways.
1. It was a Storm that produced Duel SuperCells that spawned many mesocyclones, which at one point created 5 tornado signatures, which caused panic and a lot less of an area to escape.

2. It was near a populated during rush hour.

3. There was miscommunication that caused panic with citizens that had already gotten home, and they were advised to head out on the roads once again. which only clogged roads further.

4. There was a lot of moisture and heavy rainfall that was downpouring during the height of the storms which caused the tornadoes to be rainwrapped and not easily visible.

This was not a situation that could've been seen by anyone without being actually already inside the storm. It was just unfortunately bad that people like Tim, Carl, and Paul, as well as many others that got caught up in the unseen.

You lied! You said the post before this post was your last post but it wasn't your last post!!
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Quoting HurricaneHunterJoe:

yeah kinda right I guess
I currently makin my own graphic
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Quoting KoritheMan:


Or maybe weather's just capricious. I heard of a couple chasers getting pinned to a garage wall during Charley in 2004. These things happen, it's a chance you take.

People blame that Storm chasers are being "More Reckless" but this was a very difficult and rare event to deal with. There was a lot of factors that brought this whole mess into the bad situation that trapped many on the Highways.
1. It was a Storm that produced Duel SuperCells that spawned many mesocyclones, which at one point created 5 tornado signatures, which caused panic and a lot less of an area to escape.

2. It was near a populated area during rush hour.

3. There was miscommunication that caused panic with citizens that had already gotten home, and they were advised to head out on the roads once again. which only clogged roads further.

4. There was a lot of moisture and heavy rainfall that was downpouring during the height of the storms which caused the tornadoes to be rainwrapped and not easily visible.

This was not a situation that could've been seen by anyone without being actually already inside the storm. It was just unfortunately bad that people like Tim, Carl, and Paul, as well as many others that got caught up in the unseen.
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Quoting Walshy:
Where is StormW?

Doing foot massages?
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I'd prefer not to die at all.. actually. :)
Member Since: July 8, 2005 Posts: 259 Comments: 24457
Quoting HurricaneHunterJoe:


I just love curvature!

lol
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Quoting beell:


You should drop him a note of thanks for the free ride and wish him well.

:-)

Yeah, we should all thanks him for the free models! Wishing him good luck with taking the website to the whole new level!
Member Since: August 1, 2011 Posts: 28 Comments: 8041
Quoting FunnelVortex:


I want to be a chaser, but you will NEVER catch me going into a category 4.


There are two primary ways I'd like to die:

A) Peacefully
B) Storm chasing

The former would be less painful, though. ;)
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Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting KoritheMan:


Or maybe weather's just capricious. I heard of a couple chasers getting pinned to a garage wall during Charley in 2004. These things happen, it's a chance you take.


I want to be a chaser, but you will NEVER catch me going into a category 4.
Member Since: October 20, 2012 Posts: 7 Comments: 2873
Well guys its almost that time... :) Next comment will be my last on this account ;) BitterSweet.
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Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.

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