Three storm chasers including a father and son team were killed on Friday as they followed the deadly tornadoes tearing through Oklahoma.

Tim Samaras, 55, his son Paul Samaras, 24, and crew member Carl Young, 45, died when ferocious twisters ripped through El Reno on Friday. They are well known for their daring work on Discovery Channel show Storm Chasers.

The professional storm chasers are among at least 12 people killed as the death toll rose today following the tornadoes and subsequent flash floods that struck in Oklahoma and Arkansas.

Avid explorer: Emotional tributes have been made to scientist and storm chaser Tim Samaras, who died doing what he loved, friends said

Deadly profession: Storm chasers Tim Samaras (center) and crew member Carl Young (right) were killed on Friday in a tornado that ripped through El Reno, Oklahoma

Deadly profession: Storm chasers Tim Samaras (center) and crew member Carl Young (right) were killed on Friday in a tornado that ripped through El Reno, Oklahoma.

Mr Samaras’ brother Jim wrote on Facebook: ‘Thank you to everyone for the condolences. It truly is sad that we lost my great brother Tim and his great son, Paul.

‘Our hearts also go out to the Carl Young family as well as they are feeling the same feelings we are today. They all unfortunately passed away but doing what they loved.’

Long-time friend of Tim Samaras, meterologist Mike Nelson, told the Denver Channel: ‘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.’

Terry Garcia, executive vice president of the National Geographic Society, said: ‘We were shocked and deeply saddened by the news that longtime National Geographic grantee Tim Samaras was killed in a tornado in Oklahoma on Friday, along with Tim’s son Paul and their colleague Carl Young

‘Tim was a courageous and brilliant scientist who fearlessly pursued tornadoes and lightning in the field in an effort to better understand these phenomena. The National Geographic Society made 18 grants to Tim for research over the years for field work like he was doing in Oklahoma at the time of his death, and he was one of our 2005 Emerging Explorers.

 
Lighting up the sky: The storm chasers work was featured on National Geographic and the Discovery Channel as they tracked violent weather systems

Lighting up the sky: The storm chasers work was featured on National Geographic and the Discovery Channel as they tracked violent weather systems

 

 

 

 

‘Tim’s research included creation of a special probe he would place in the path of a twister to measure data from inside the tornado; his pioneering work on lightning was featured in the August 2012 issue of National Geographic magazine. Though we sometimes take it for granted, Tim’s death is a stark reminder of the risks encountered regularly by the men and women who work for us. This is an enormous loss for his family, his wide circle of friends and colleagues and National Geographic.’

Nine were confirmed dead in the Oklahoma City area on Friday evening while flash floods in Arkansas caused another three fatalities, including a sheriff trying to rescue people from rising waters.

Damage from Friday night’s severe weather was concentrated a few miles north of Moore, the Oklahoma City suburb pounded by an EF5 tornado on May 20 that killed 24 people.

Another two sets of storm-chasing meteorologists had lucky escapes on Friday night after their vehicles got too close to the multiple tornadoes that hit the Oklahoma City area.

TIM SAMARAS: THE VALUABLE LEGACY OF A STORM CHASER

The seasoned storm chaser had dedicated his life to extreme weather, following storms for a quarter of a century.

His pioneering work included the development of probes which when left in the path of a tornado, can measure pressure drops. 

He set a world record in 2003 which still stands today when he recorded an 100 millibar pressure drop from an F-4 tornado. 

His website Twistex has been integral to understanding how tornadoes work and improving warning times for those living in Tornado Alley. 

 

Mike Bettes, a member of the Weather Channel Tornado Hunt Team, was driving in his SUV when it was picked up and thrown 200 yards by the monster rain-wrapped tornado near El Reno.

In a separate incident, Brandon Sullivan and Brett Wright captured heart stopping footage of their exploits getting too close to the powerful twister near Union City, in southwest Oklahoma City.

The Storm Prediction Center in Norman predicted a slight chance of severe weather in the Northeast on Sunday, mainly from the Washington, D.C., area to northern Maine.

Hail and high winds were the chief threat, though a tornado could not be ruled out, forecasters said.

 

Friday night’s storm formed out on the prairie west of Oklahoma City, giving residents plenty of advance notice.

When told to seek shelter, many ventured out and snarled traffic across the metro area – perhaps remembering the damage from May 20.

‘It was chaos. People were going southbound in the northbound lanes. Everybody was running for their lives,’ said Terri Black, 51, a teacher’s assistant in Moore.

After seeing last month’s tornado also turn homes into piles of splintered rubble, Black said she decided to try and outrun the tornado when she learned her southwest Oklahoma City home was in harm’s way. She quickly regretted it.

When she realized she was a sitting duck in bumper-to-bumper traffic, Black turned around and found herself directly in the path of the most violent part of the storm.

‘My car was actually lifted off the road and then set back down,’ Black said. ‘The trees were leaning literally to the ground. The rain was coming down horizontally in front of my car.’

Oklahoma Highway Patrol Trooper Betsy Randolph said roadways quickly became congested with the convergence of rush-hour traffic and fleeing residents.

‘They had no place to go, and that’s always a bad thing. They were essentially targets just waiting for a tornado to touch down,’ Randolph said. ‘I’m not sure why people do that sort of stuff, but it is very dangerous.’ A series of violent storms and tornadoes have killed nine people as they swept through Oklahoma City and its suburbs on Friday

A series of violent storms and tornadoes have killed nine people as they swept through Oklahoma City and its suburbs on Friday

 
People survey the damage at the Canadian Valley Technology Center's El Reno Campus after it was hit by a powerful tornado on Friday

People survey the damage at the Canadian Valley Technology Center’s El Reno Campus after it was hit by a powerful tornado on Friday

 

 
An airplane from the Aviation Technology department lies upside down on the lawn at Canadian Valley Technology Center in El Reno

An airplane from the Aviation Technology department lies upside down on the lawn at Canadian Valley Technology Center in El Reno

 

Friday night’s victims included a mother and a baby sucked out of their car as the EF3 hit near El Reno. A four-year-old boy died after being swept into the Oklahoma River on the south side of Oklahoma City, said Oklahoma City police Lt. Jay Barnett. The boy and other family members had sought shelter in a drainage ditch.

 

More than 100 people were injured by swirling debris, most with puncture wounds and lacerations, authorities said.

 

A total of five tornadoes struck the Oklahoma City metro area, the National Weather Service said.

 

Oklahoma wasn’t the only state hit by violent weather Friday night. In Missouri, areas west of St. Louis received significant damage from an EF3 tornado Friday night that packed estimated winds of 150 mph. In St. Charles County, at least 71 homes were heavily damaged and 100 had slight to moderate damage, county spokeswoman Colene McEntee said.

 

Tens of thousands were without power, and only eight minor injuries were reported. Governor Jay Nixon declared a state of emergency.

 

Northeast of St. Louis and across the Mississippi River, the city of Roxana was hit by an EF3 tornado, but National Weather Service meteorologist Jayson Gosselin said it wasn’t clear whether the damage in both states came from the same EF3 twister or separate ones.

 
People search a field for guns near a destroyed RV at a state shooting tournament that was destroyed in El Reno

People search a field for guns near a destroyed RV at a state shooting tournament that was destroyed in El Reno

 
Shotguns recovered from a field lay against a overturned trailor at a state shooting tournament that was destroyed in El Reno

Shotguns recovered from a field lay against a overturned trailor at a state shooting tournament that was destroyed in El Reno

 

 
 
When the storm passed between El Reno and Yukon, it barreled right down Interstate 40 for more than two miles, ripping billboards down to twisted metal frames

When the storm passed between El Reno and Yukon, it barreled right down Interstate 40 for more than two miles, ripping billboards down to twisted metal frames

 

 

Flash flooding accounted for some of the deaths, such as that of a 65-year-old man who died on Saturday when his car drove off a damaged bridge  in eastern Oklahoma County. Oklahoma County sheriff’s office has identified the victim as James Talbert, according to NewsOk.

In Missouri three people died in three counties after rivers rose to dangerous levels, and in Arkansas a sheriff was killed by flooding in Scott County on Friday.

Sheriff Cody Carpenter and a wildlife officer had been checking on houses that were in danger of being flooded. His body was found but the wildlife officer is still listed as missing.

Five tornadoes battered the Oklahoma City area on Friday, while another tornado hit the Tulsa area early Saturday.

Missouri and Illinois around St. Louis were also hit by 12 tornadoes, at least 100 people are injured and ‘numerous homes’ have been damaged. More than 200,000 were left without power in the impacted areas.

Though the tornadoes were not as strong as the EF-5 twister that killed 24 on May 20, fear drove many people to attempt to flee the area in their cars only to get caught up in heavy rains and flash flooding.

‘I’m wondering if the tornadoes from a couple of weeks ago didn’t frighten people so badly that this time they were taking no chances and trying to evade it by car,’ said Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett.

‘That’s a very unwise thing to do because it’s the absolute worst place you can be during a tornado.’

After the devastation of the Moore tornado, many residents who had experiences the storms before decided to ignore advice to stay home and tried to seek shelter elsewhere.

Amy Williamson, who lives just off I-40 in the western Oklahoma City suburb of Yukon, said when she heard the tornado was heading towards her home, she put her children, baby sitter and cats in her car and drove away.

‘I’m a seasoned tornado watcher … but I just could not see staying and waiting for it to hit,’ she said.

The family sheltered from the storm in a hospital parking garage.

A 51-year-old teacher’s assistant who also tried to run from the storm said she quickly regretted her decision, after becoming stuck in traffic in the path of the tornado.

‘It was chaos … Everybody was running for their lives,’ Terri Black, who lives in Moore, said.

‘My car was actually lifted off the road and then set back down,’ Ms Black said. ‘The trees were leaning literally to the ground. The rain was coming down horizontally in front of my car. Big blue trash cans were being tossed around like a piece of paper in the wind. I’ll never do it again.’

Though the state’s transportation authorities strongly advised citizens not to drive, some interstate highways in Oklahoma were jammed with stalled traffic, as heavy rains drenched roadways and flooded low-lying areas.

Officials described parts of Interstates 35 and 40 near Oklahoma City as ‘a parking lot.’

When the storm passed between El Reno and Yukon, it barreled right down Interstate 40 for more than two miles, ripping billboards down to twisted metal frames. Debris was tangled in the median’s crossover barriers, including huge pieces of sheet metal, tree limbs, metal pipes, a giant oil drum and a stretch of chain-link fence.

Drivers were encouraged to stay off the roads on Saturday, as emergency crews started to repair the flood-damaged roads and bridges, and began clearing trees and other debris from roadways to make it easier for first responders to get to the areas hit by the tornadoes.

The Oklahoma State Department of Health reported Saturday that Oklahoma City-area hospitals treated 104 people. More than half of those were people who had been cut or pierced.

Violent weather also moved through the St. Louis area. Early aerial images of the storm’s damage showed groups of homes with porches ripped away, roofs torn off and piles of splintered wood scattered across the ground for blocks. Officials in St. Charles County also reported that local schools suffered some damage.

More than 210,000 customers have lost electricity in the areas affected by the storm. With the severe weather knocking out power to nearly 120,000 customers in Oklahoma, according to electricity provider OG&E.

The worry now turns to flash flooding, floodwaters topped four feet in Oklahoma City on Saturday morning. According to meteorologists about six to eight inches of rain fell in a 12 hour period between 7 p.m. Friday and 7 a.m. Saturday.

The National Weather Service said the severe weather threat would shift into neighboring Illinois and Missouri, where Governor Jay Nixon declared a state of emergency on Friday.

Television images showed downed power lines and tossed cars as the storm systems dumped at least three inches of rain, stranding motorists in flood water.

Meteorologists had warned about particularly nasty weather Friday but said the storm’s fury didn’t match that of the tornado that struck Moore. The Friday storm, however, brought with it much more severe flooding. It dumped around 8 inches of rain on Oklahoma City in the span of a few hours and made the tornado difficult to spot for motorists trying to beat it home.

‘Some tornadoes are wrapped in rain, so it’s basically impossible to see, which is extremely dangerous,’ said Bruce Thoren, a meteorologist with National Weather Service in Norman. ‘Somebody driving along really not familiar with what’s going on can basically drive into it.’

Emergency officials reported that numerous injuries occurred in the area along I-40, and said the storm’s victims were mostly in cars. Standing water was several feet deep, and in some places it looked more like a hurricane had passed through than a tornado.

The dead include a mother and her baby who were sucked out of their car during the tornadoes.

The mother and baby were killed while traveling on the Interstate near El Reno when their vehicle was picked up by the storm, said Betsy Randolph, spokeswoman for the Oklahoma Highway Patrol.

‘We know that the storm picked them up and swept them away,’ Oklahoma Highway Patrol Trooper Betsy Randolph told ABC News. ‘When the troopers found them, they were both deceased.’

They were just miles from the city of Moore, which was devastated by a massive tornado that killed 24 people on May 20.

A man’s body was found about 1 p.m. on Saturday in a creek just east of Dobbs Road in Harrah, said Mark Myers, a spokesman with the Oklahoma County Sherriff’s office.

Myers said the man left for work early Saturday and his vehicle was found empty near East Hefner Road and Dobbs Road just after 6 a.m.

‘His vehicle was found washed off the road,’ Myers said. ‘He was either washed off the road or tried to get out of his car. I don’t think people realized how deep and strong the water was.’

The interstate was shut down due to the storm, with multiple crashes and injuries. Two other victims were found in a car in Union City, another was found on a road in El Reno.

At Will Rogers World Airport, 2,000 people spent the night sheltering in underground tunnels, reports News 9.

Fifty people took shelter in the freezer at a Sinclair gas station in south Oklahoma City. In the freezer some people were freaking out and crying, while some comforted others and few told jokes, revealed Beverly Allam, 57.

When she emerged from the freezer her car windshield had been shattered by the hail. On her way home after the worst had passed ‘the roads were like rivers,’ she said.

Brandi Vanalphen, 30, was among the hundreds of drivers trapped on traffic-snarled roads as she attempted to flee the tornado system menacing the suburb of Norman.

‘What got me scared was being stuck in traffic with sirens going off,’ she said.

‘I started seeing power flashes to the north, and I said “screw this.” I started driving on the shoulder. People started driving over the grass.’

People who tried to get away in their cars faced potential dangers from flash flood waters as well as tornado-force winds.

More cars on the roads also meant more trouble for Highway Patrol officers responding to automobile accidents during the storm, Randolph said. The officers had to contend with hail and strong winds as they worked to help motorists.

‘For reasons that are not clear to me, more people took to the roads, more than we expected.

‘Everyone acted differently in this storm, and as a result, it created an extremely dangerous situation,’ said Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett.

‘I think we are still a little shaken by what happened in Moore. We are still burying children and victims, so our emotions are still strong,’ he added.

Among the injured was a meteorologist from The Weather Channel.

Meteorologist Mike Bette is nursing minor injuries after his ‘tornado hunt’ car was thrown some 200 yards by the storm.

The network said though Betts was hurt, he and the car’s two other occupants were wearing safety belts and were able to walk away from the banged-up vehicle.

Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin told CNN that motorists faced great danger when stuck on any freeway in the path of a twister.

‘What we saw from the tornadoes that came through Moore and the other ones last week was that people who were in cars on the Interstate were killed,’ Fallin told CNN.

Large, long-lasting thunderstorms known as supercells are responsible for producing the strongest tornadoes, along with large hail and other dangerous winds.

Though the tornado alert expired, the powerful rain continued to hit the area and floodwaters were collecting in the streets.

Flood waters up to 4ft deep hampered rescue attempts and frequent lightning roiled the skies well after the main threat had passed to the east.

Emergency officials reported numerous injuries in the area along I-40, and Randolph said there were toppled and wrecked cars littering the area.

Troopers requested a number of ambulances at I-40 near Yukon, west of Oklahoma City.

Hail and heavy rain pelted the metro area to the point that emergency workers had trouble responding to ‘widespread’ reports of injuries.

‘We’re scrambling around,’ said Lara O’Leary, a spokeswoman for the local ambulance agency.

‘There is very low visibility with the heavy rain … so we’re having trouble getting around.

‘The damage is very, very widespread.’

Standing water was several feet deep, and downtown Oklahoma City looked more like a hurricane had gone through than a tornado.

Tornado warnings were also posted Friday night near Tulsa and near St. Louis. At least six semis on their side at a weight station on I-40 near Oklahoma City, photographer Jim Beckel reported. Numerous vehicles were damaged in the storm and that many motorists were left stranded.  

More than 86,000 people were without power in the Oklahoma City area, with that number expected to grow, according to ABC News.

Will Rogers World Airport was evacuated as Oklahoma City braced for the tornado, that was moving at 40mph.

Local news reported an estimated 1,200 people were at the airport.

NBC News reported that the passengers were herded to the basement and told to put their hands on their heads as they waited out the storm.

Storm chasers with cameras in their car transmitted video showing a number of funnels dropping from the supercell thunderstorm as it passed south of El Reno and toward downtown Oklahoma City.

Police urged motorists to leave the crosstown Interstate 40 and seek a safe place.

The storm was headed toward Oklahoma City, which has more than a million people in the metro area.

‘If you live in downtown Oklahoma City, please go below ground. Do it right now,’ local news forecasters told viewers.

Television cameras showed debris falling from the sky west of Oklahoma City and power transformers being knocked out by high winds across a wider area.

The scene was eerily like that from last week, when blackened skies generated a top-of-the-scale EF5 storm with 210 mph winds.

Rick Smith, the warning coordination meteorologist for the National Weather Service at Norman, said that while the storm packed a powerful punch, it wasn’t as strong as the Moore tornado.

 
Waiting

Waiting: Oklahoma City’s Will Rogers World Airport was evacuated. Local news reported an estimated 1,200 people were at the airport and were herded to the basement to wait out the storm

 

 

 

The region was fortunate because the storm touched down mostly in rural areas and missed central Oklahoma City.

‘It’s not even close to anything like what we had last week,’ Smith said. ‘We were very concerned this would move into downtown. It would have been a major problem. It made all the difference that it was out in the country.’

Well before Oklahoma’s first thunderstorms fired up at late afternoon, the Storm Prediction Center in Norman was already forecasting a violent evening.

From the Texas border to near Joplin, Mo., residents were told to keep an eye to the sky and an ear out for sirens.

This spring’s tornado season got a late start, with unusually cool weather keeping funnel clouds at bay until mid-May.

The season usually starts in March and then ramps up for the next couple of months.

Most tornadoes in the United States are relatively small. Of the 60 EF5 tornadoes to hit since 1950, Oklahoma and Alabama have been hit the most – seven times each.

 

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