Storm chasers' deaths a sobering reminder

2013-06-06T00:00:00Z Storm chasers' deaths a sobering reminder Arizona Daily Star
June 06, 2013 12:00 am

The following editorial appeared Tuesday in the Dallas Morning News:

The very term - storm chaser - suggests thrill and adventure. It conjures images of swashbuckling weather junkies who tempt fate in pursuit of dramatic video or close encounters with killer cyclones.

Our video-obsessed culture can't get enough of their harrowing tales. Now add the grimmest of chapters - the obituaries of three tornado chasers among the 13 dead from Friday's second round of lethal storms in the Oklahoma City area.

There is a lesson to be learned in how they died. It's about the respect everyone in Tornado Alley should have for our volatile springtime weather.

The chase team was headed by a veteran engineer and inventor whose former show, "Storm Chasers," aired on the Discovery Channel and who had several science grants from the National Geographic Society. Known for attention to safety, Tim Samaras was interested in the science, not the rush of excitement, say those who knew him. His goal was collecting data to help understand twisters better and save lives in the long run.

It is a cruel irony that his death - and those of his son, Paul, and crew mate Carl Young - illustrate the wisdom of what experts tell us about tornadoes. They drop from the sky with little warning and disappear just as fast. They are capricious, defying explanation about why they will obliterate a line of houses but spare one or two. They change course in a heartbeat.

That adds up to advice we often hear but don't often heed. A tornado warning means seek shelter. Get off the road, since a vehicle is a poor option. Do not try to outrun a tornado.

The popularity of tornado videos might lull us into thinking that storm hunting is a thrill-a-minute spectator sport. The casualty list from El Reno says otherwise.

Violent springtime weather is lethal.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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