Amid disastrous weather situations, emergency crews often have to navigate around legitimate storm chasers — like scientist Tim Samaras, 55, who along with his son, Paul Samaras, 24, and storm chasing partner, Carl Young, 45, was killed in Friday’s tornado near Oklahoma City — as well as adrenaline junkies and others who clog sometimes narrow roadways trying to capture video of dangerous storms. Though the details are unclear, the trio led by the elder Samaras reportedly died when their vehicle was picked up and smashed by the tornado. Tim Samaras was found still buckled into his crunched vehicle while his two passengers were found in a field. A team of Weather Channel storm chasers led by Mike Bettes also had its SUV picked up and tossed in the storm, though they survived the upheaval.
Deaths resulting from Mother Nature’s handiwork — especially those who knew and understood the dangers of tornadoes — are troubling, but crafting more regulations wouldn’t have saved Samaras’ crew nor the six other people killed in the twister.
Laws already prohibit people from impeding or interfering with emergency personnel. It’d be difficult to believe that even if more stringent laws restricting storm chasers were on the books that law enforcement personnel would be able to do much policing in the chaos of a storm situation. Severe weather warrants respect and safety precautions, however, law enforcement and emergency preparedness personnel can’t be expected to save everyone from their own mistakes.
When a mile-wide tornado suddenly changes directions and storm chasers are in its immediate proximity, it’s tough to escape regardless of a person’s level of expertise with a life-crushing tornado. Changing laws regarding storm chasers because of this one situation would be overkill of a situation that already claimed far too many lives.
— Jeanny Sharp,
editor and publisher