After steadily moving east-southeast for a period of time on Friday afternoon, a powerful EF-3 tornado in Oklahoma suddenly shifted direction — moving at a 45-degree angle and catching everyone in its path off-guard.
"It was this sharp turn that took the lives of three storm chasers and almost killed the Weather Channel's crew on Friday," reported TheWeatherSpace.com, which illustrated the tornado's dramatic change in direction.
The three men lost, members of the storm chasing team TWISTEX, were veteran scientists Tim Samaras, 55, and Carl Young, 45, along with Samaras's son, Paul, 24. The elder Samaras and Young were also former stars of the Discovery Channel's popular "Storm Chasers" reality series. For five seasons, until November 2011, the men featured prominently on the program.
"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," the network said in a statement.
Less than two weeks ago, Tim Samaras was interviewed by National Geographic, describing what it's like to be out in the field chasing tornadoes.
"Being close to a tornado is one of those incredible, fleeting moments that sometimes you have to take a couple of seconds to take in," he said.
"You can see in detail the tornado, the wind flow; you can actually hear it. And the sounds are different. If [the tornado is] in an open field, it sounds like a waterfall. If it's in a populated area, it becomes more of a thundering sound.
"And then actually even the smell of tornadoes — if you're in the right place, you get a strong odor of fresh-cut grass, or occasionally, if it's destroyed a house, natural gas. Sometimes you get that raw earth smell, similar to if you run a bulldozer over open land."
In a statement, Terry Garcia, executive vice president of the National Geographic Society, expressed his sadness over the loss of Tim.
"Tim was a courageous and brilliant scientist who fearlessly pursued tornadoes and lightning in the field in an effort to better understand these phenomena," he said. "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."
To understand more about the man and his love of researching storms, check out this video narrated by Tim Samaras below.
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