UPDATE: I have a “before” picture of the vehicle now, posted below.
UPDATE2: Perhaps storm chasing has reached a tipping point.
OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. — Family members and members of the storm chasing community are confirming that well-respected tornado researcher and storm chaser Tim Samaras is among the eleven confirmed victims of Friday’s tornado that ripped through El Reno, Oklahoma. Samaras was one of the most well-known and respected tornado researchers in the world and had made many appearances on television shows like the Discovery Channel series Storm Chasers and was a regular contributor to shows on National Geographic.
Update 9:30 a.m., June 2: We now hear that “veteran storm chaser Tim Samaras; his son, Paul Samaras; and chase partner Carl Young, are among those killed by Friday’s EF-3 tornado in El Reno, OK.”
In the midst of all the tragedy unfolding in Oklahoma, media and storm chasers have been swarming all over the tornado outbreak. I’ve seen this many times in my years in television news: when you are tasked with going live, sometimes common sense gets literally thrown to the wind.
The Weather Channel lost sight of reality today, trying to get close to get the best footage for live coverage, and paid the price. Fortunately, they weren’t killed. Just last year, the TWC ran this segment by TWC meteorologist Mike Bettes, where he asked:
Mike Bettes’s Open Mike Discussion “Storm Chasers, Have They Gone Too Far?”
And it seems, Mike Bettes doesn’t listen to his own advice. Watch:
Meteorologist Mike Bettes was chasing the monster rain-wrapped tornado near El Reno, Okla. when he says the storm picked up the heavy chase SUV and threw it an estimated 200 yards.
“We were ahead of the storm. We stopped to broadcast and I saw a large violent wedge tornado,” Bettes said in a live phone interview after he established phone connection after the incident.
“What we were trying to do was just get away from it and get to the south side of it,” Bettes said. “But what ended up happening was all three of our vehicles that we chase with were all hit by it.”
Basically, he put his team so close, he couldn’t get away from it.
And, he should know better. From the videos I’ve seen, this appeared to be a multiple vortice tornado, with a central core surrounded by other vortices (typically 3 or 4). Sometimes these outer vortices are intermittent and invisible.
Trying to dodge multiple vortices in the middle of live TV is of course a recipe for disaster.
h/t to Firsthand Weather
UPDATE: Before the tornado caught it, all blinged out:
Image by Kevin Parrish of NBC News