Tim Samaras and Carl Young, formerly of the Discovery Channel program "Storm Chasers," along with Samaras' 24-year-old son Paul, died Friday in a tornado that struck the Oklahoma City area, killing at least nine. It was the second deadly storm to hit the region in less than two weeks.
Young and the Samarases were near El Reno, Okla., on Friday when an EF-3 storm descended on the area during rush hour.
"We are deeply saddened by the loss of Tim Samaras his son Paul and their colleague Carl Young. Our thoughts and prayers go out to their families," Discovery said in a statement.
Tim Samaras, a veteran researcher with more than 30 years' experience, founded the field program TWISTEX (Tactical Weather Instrumented Sampling In/near Tornadoes EXperiment), which records tornado data with the goal of improving forecasts.
According to his bio on the Discovery Channel website, Samaras also developed special probes to record meteorological data inside tornadoes. In 2005, earned the distinction of becoming one of National Geographic's "Emerging Explorers" and had received numerous grants from the organization. Unlike some of his fellow storm chasers, Samaras had a reputation as a serious-minded researcher, not a thrill-seeker.
In a recent interview with National Geographic, he explained that he first became interested in tornadoes after a childhood viewing of "The Wizard of Oz."
Young met Samaras while pursuing a masters degree in atmospheric science and the men had been storm-chasing partners since 2003, heading out every spring to collect data. Together they tracked more than 125 tornadoes over the past decade, according to Young's bio, and were one of the teams featured on the program "Storm Chasers," which ran for five seasons on Discovery until the end of 2011.
On Friday afternoon, Tim Samaras appeared via telephone on MSNBC's "The Cycle," where he predicted a so-called supercell storm, characterized by large hail and destructive tornadoes, could be headed for the Oklahoma City region.
"The ingredients are coming together for a pretty volatile day," he said.
Discovery plans to dedicate Sunday's broadcast of "Mile Wide Tornado: Oklahoma," a special about the May 20tornado that hit Moore, Okla., to the men. A card will read: "In memory of Tim Samaras, Carl Young and Paul Samaras who died Friday, May 31st doing what they love, chasing storms."
On Monday, Tim Samaras posted a message on his Facebook page. "Everyone enjoy the chase — and hope that tornadoes wander over open country," he wrote. "Most of all, I reflect and appreciate the freedom this incredible country has to offer, and the ultimate sacrifices so many have made to make it happen. Thank you. You are the true heros."