Storm Chaser Killed in Oklahoma Helped Create Chicago Tornado Exhibit
HYDE PARK — One of three storm chasers who died last week in an Oklahoma tornado was instrumental in developing a Museum of Science and Industry exhibit on volatile weather.
A turtle probe that Tim Samaras helped develop is on display at the museum's "Science Storms" exhibit near a video presentation in which he talks about how a fascination with weather as a young man drove him to chase storms.
A tornado and lightning researcher, Samaras, his 24-year-old son Paul, and storm researcher Carl Young died as they were studying a wave of severe storms that swept through the Plains last week.
“They all unfortunately passed away, but doing what they loved,” Jim Samaras, Tim’s brother, said on Facebook. “I look at it that he is in the ‘big tornado in the sky.’”
Samaras, who was 55, was a Colorado resident who spent 20 years on the Plains photographing storms with specialized cameras and probes.
“The brave men and women in the atmospheric science community understand and respect the power and unpredictability of these severe storms better than anyone,” said Olivia Castellini, a senior exhibit developer at the MSI who worked with Samaras on "Science Storms."
“They are driven to study severe storms so that we can better understand the science that underlies them in the hopes of creating better predictive models and — ultimately — saving lives.”
Castellini said Samaras’ passion for storms will live on at the museum, where he appears in larger-than-life projections explaining the science of tornadoes.
“He had a genuine passion for explaining the science of severe storms to the public and his excitement was infectious to everyone he worked with on our team,” Castellini said.
Castellini said Samaras “was instrumental in helping us understand the basic science behind these types of storms and in helping us create a compelling presentation that would engage and inspire children and their families to learn more about them.”
A sign will be added to the exhibit to acknowledge his death, a museum spokeswoman said.
The "Science Storms" exhibit debuted in 2010 and has won numerous educational awards, including the top prize from the American Association of Museums. His "turtle probe" on display, a small round electronic measuring device, was used during a June 2003 tornado in Manchester, South Dakota.
Samaras put the probe 100 yards away from the face of a half-mile tornado in Manchester and ran. According to the museum, the 200 mph storm struck the probe but, thanks to its design, the device was able to measure the lowest change in barometric pressure ever recorded: 100 millibars in 10 seconds.
Manchester was destroyed but a plaque there was installed and includes Samaras' name.
Samaras told National Geographic last July that he was fascinated with weather as a child watching the twister in “The Wizard of Oz.”
“I watched 'The Wizard of Oz' when I was a kid and vowed to myself, 'I'm going to see that tornado one day,'” he said. “Tornadoes have pretty much become a focus of my life.”