Changing Planet

The Stunning Tornado Videos of Storm Chaser Tim Samaras, Who Has Died

Storm chaser Tim Samaras was killed Friday doing what he loved: chasing tornadoes. He and his son Paul perished in the El Reno, Oklahoma tornado along with frequent partner on storm chasing adventures, photographer Carl Young.

Samaras had a long relationship with National Geographic, providing some of our most memorable videos of storms.

A week before he died, he submitted what may have been the best, most complete video of a tornado being ‘born,’ in which he describes the formation as it’s happening. Paul was the videographer, and Carl is also seen in this video from Kansas.

Sometimes Tim and his crew found more than just tornadoes. Here, Tim and Carl, along with photographer Carsten Peter, found themselves in the midst of a storm with very large hail stones. Paul Samaras is the videographer.

Paul was also the videographer for this next video, in which the crew was following a tornado as it crossed a Kansas highway April 14, 2012.


Follow Jeff Hertrick on Twitter.

Jeff has been a Senior Video Producer with National Geographic for over 10 years. He manages day-to-day operation of National Geographic's online video player and writes, produces and narrates videos. A video news journalist for more than 25 years, his previous experience includes Senior Producer for Discovery Science Channel, Executive Producer for a regional cable news channel, and News Director, News Anchor, Producer and Reporter for several local network affiliates in Pennsylvania, Georgia, Washington, DC and West Virginia.
  • Don

    Really too bad, but what do you expect would happen sooner or later chasing tornados in a SUV!

  • Kevin

    Don, show some respect. He was a researcher, scientist, and engineer who was a major contributor to knowledge on storms. He deserves more than to be mocked and if this were my blog, I’d delete you and ban you for your insensitivity and callousness toward someone who did more in his 55 years than you will in your entire life.

  • Sassylady

    Don – We don’t “expect” this to happy to seasoned chasers. New chasers, maybe. But Tim had chased for decades and was very safety conscious. He was not flashy as other chasers, but he knew what he was doing. Of course, he knew this was always a possibility but he did everything and more than most chasers do to stay safe. I have many videos of storm chasers and he is in many of them. He will be very missed in the chasing world.

  • mmspr

    Tim Samaras videos and photos were fundamental in my classroom. As a teacher and reader of Nat.Geo, I will miss him. R.I.P. and my condolences to his family.

  • Melete (Funny about Money)

    Speaking of respect, don’t you think it’s astonishingly disrespectful to run ads before videos under these circumstances? Three men have died. Why are we sitting through the shilling for a camera company before we get to the tribute to these extraordinary scientists and adventurers? Yes, National Geographic has to make a profit…but surely there’s a better way.

  • kangateach

    Tim Samaras was passionate about his work and about sharing his knowledge with others. He worked with educational outreach programs to inspire and educate youth. My family and I were fortunate enough to meet Tim at one such event. He was kind and patient when my shy 7 year old son struggled to put his question into words. We feel honored to have had the opportunity to meet and learn from Tim. His intelligence, expertise, and enthusiasm were obvious to everyone. We are deeply saddened to hear the passing of Tim, his son Paul, and Carl Young. We wish their families and friends peace and comfort during this difficult time.

  • Paul D

    So sad, I had the pleasure of watching his videos on TV and online – out of all the storm chasers, I had the most respect for him and his son. He seemed like such a good man, scientist and you could tell that he really wanted his research to benefit people for time to come and save lives.
    I would have been blessed to meet them, thoughts and prayers for him and his family.

  • Karen

    Don- is just showing how truly ignorant he is! He obviously never watched Storm Chasers or doesn’t have any idea how safe these guys operated when it came to chasing storms and their research! It’s terrible to say bad things about people after they have died doing good things!!!

  • Norman Hirsch

    That first video “freight train type storm – get yourself in position NE of the storm”… explains what might have happened to Tim and his son and friend as the storm they were tracking in fact took a quick North turn and then turned east straight down a road might have been the one they were on. Tim wanted to save lives and this will add to his research but more as a warning that the plan of action he expressed in the video is more dangerous as storms are unpredictable and complicated due to so many people on the same road causing congestion and inability to escape quickly. I imagine the relatively long eastward movement of the storm along the road was like a game of chicken between the storm and the cars facing it.

  • Cedric

    Don – Again, I think your question is not really appropriate here! We have lost 3 great people here! May be you should drive your own SUV, start chasing tornados and let us know how you close encounter experience.

  • ivair teodoro tangerino

    parabéns pelo ótimo trabalho, muito bom, eles não mediram esforços em seu trabalho .

  • jwood

    Fort Sill…at least when I was in the army in the early 70’s…was the headquarters for the US Army meteorological program. For a reason. Lawton Oklahoma is dead center in the furious weather breeding ground called Tornado Alley. No where else on earth aside from the United States Tornado Alley are these kinds of phenomenally powerful storms found.

    The fact that Tim Samaras and his son were killed doing this kind of research and very risky activity is definitely sad. Most modern Americans are too wrapped up in their own existences to ever contemplate the serious danger that other serious people put themselves in while gathering data on Mother Nature’s most wicked events. This kind of weather study is not a joke…and it really deserves a moment of total pause. Unlike many people with serious meteorological training…I have no problem typing the following: My heart and my prayers are for Tim and his son and their co-worker…..and also for sure for his entire family. There will always be those who find storm chasing to be the sort of thing that Evil Knievel might do…..but there is a distinct difference…..the end result might wind up the same….but the close up gathering and study of storm data has a very noble component to it…

    So long Tim….Paul and Carl……there are many of us who respect you mightily.

  • TAZ

    The only real observation that I have to make over Tim Samara’s death is this….please…Don or whoever…first you need to walk a mile in Tim Samara’s shoes before you can fully comprehend the complexity of the whole scenario that led to this fine storm chaser’s demise…other than that…zip it!

  • Greeg

    Sorry for the lost of the great people: Tim Samaras, his son Paul and his friend Carl Young!!!! R.I.P. all of them…..

  • Lisa Arduin

    RIP guys. To travel with you guys chasing a storm or tornado was on my bucket list. So much has been learnt from the research & work you have done. So sad I never got to meet you.

  • randy

    At first I thought that these guys were crazy and reckless for doing this. But after watching some of their videos, I know I was wrong. These guys did great work! I am just surprised that they got caught.

    a great loss to their profession and sad…

  • Adrianne

    Best comment, jwood … people often mock what they don’t understand.
    Please lay off Don – it’s an innocent observation! Laypeople see huge tank-like storm chasing vehicles on tv juxtaposed with a flimsy looking shell that was unfortunately occupied by veteran researchers and it makes some of us scratch our heads.

    Also praying for the Samaras and Young families … as someone who has “heard the train”, these men’s sacrifices resonate deep in my heart. May God bless and keep you all.

    “There is no greater love than this: that a person would lay down his life for the sake of his friends.” – John 15:13

  • Danay

    That looks like fun i actually might wanna be a storm chaser one day ! oh and don i have only seen a few of this mans videos and i dont care whether he did this for decades or only a year if he was good enough at what he did to actually get on tv and inspire people to follow their passions in life he deserves more respect than some cruel person coming on here and hating like some immature teenager!

  • Frederic Hore

    I commend Tim Samaras, his son Paul and his colleagues for their excellent work, for documenting and furthering our knowledge about storms and supercells that afflict not only this region of the United States, but in other countries around the world.
    As a photographer, writer and storm chaser here in Montreal (on average Canada has 11 tornadoes a year) I was engrossed by your insightful and inspiring work through the years.
    My sincere condolences to your families. You will be missed.

  • jim henry

    tim pauln carl you will be greatly missed thank you for the lives you saved on that may 31 2013 tornado outbreak rip will never ever forget you n also loved watching u on storm chasers

  • Dennis

    I’m so sorry about this lost… They were amazing people that gave us great knowledge about tornado… R.I.P.

  • James Francis

    Sorry to hear about the tragic loss! I wish their family the best at this tragic time. Just know they were doing something that very few dared to do. People need to understand with these type of brave people our storm warning systems will only improve. I Thank all Storm Chaser for their efforts.

  • DebP

    Thank you for putting this up. To Tim’s wife Cathy please know that your husband saved so many lives as did Paul. To Carl Young’s family, please know Carl also saved lives. These men were hero’s to so many and to those that never had a clue who saved their lives. Without tornado chasers we wouldn’t understand half of what tornadoes can do or how they can exist. Obviously anyone that doesn’t respect these chasers have never lived through a tornado or is uneducated.

  • Stacy

    I was devastated at the loss of these 3 men. I never though of myself as a fan girl. I’m pretty down to earth. This loss caught me in the gut. I have felt sick since Friday. I’m so very sorry to the family’s. I so very sorry the world has lost such gifted men.
    What a terrible tragedy. May 31st will always be a sad day.
    This is lame.

  • susan

    To the Tim and Paul Samaras and Carl Young families. Your husbands and son will be missed. I regularly used their videos in my classes. I even has a signed picture of Tim hanging in my classroom. We all mourn the loss of such great scientists. Their research has helped to protect the lives of others. Our prayers will be with you.

  • Suzanne Tamiesie

    My deepest condolences and prayers to the family of Paul and Tim Samaras and the Carl Young family. Paul, Tim and Carl’s work added significantly to the study of the formations and tracks of tornados. Their work has and will continue to save lives.

  • Sandy

    OMG, Don how old are you? That’s like saying ” well every day I walk outside of my house and knowing all the dangers around me, I have to go back in. It’s too dangerous. The science and knowledge these wonder men has helped and will continue to help us far into the future and they are just as much Hero’s in my book as anyone that has a job that protects the communities. Hey, I have an idea, make something of yourself and contribute to you country and become a storm chaser.

  • Sandy

    I so apologize. I started ranting about Don, which just probably ate it up. I want to say to the family that I am so sorry for their loss. I know they had to be proud of them and we all will miss them deeply.

  • Ima Ryma

    To storm chase – is it just for fun?
    Or is it for some public good?
    Whenever storm chasing is done,
    Death might not be the end, but could.
    There ought to be a law some say
    To make storm chasing a set crime.
    If caught there’d be a fine to pay.
    Repeat offenders would do time.
    The public good, the science stuff,
    Let drones be sent in for that aim.
    Dying is tragedy enough,
    And worse when done in just a game.

    To storm chase is to do but die.
    To storm chase is to ask but why?

  • berry


  • BradysMom`

    To the Families and Friends of Tim Samaras, Carl Young, and Paul Samaras: I wish you peace and comfort during this difficult time, and in the years to come. These wonderfully gifted, scientific minds and hearts will truly be missed!

    I have lived in Northeast Oklahoma all of my life. Most of the time, we have great, though sometimes extreme, weather.

    We owe huge debts of gratitude to such valiant men as these who dedicate their lives to “chasing tornadoes” so that science gains a better understanding of the deadly storms which results in answers to scientific questions as well as in better, life-saving storm warning systems.

    To the people who are reading this page: Please take into consideration the following facts which are taken from an interview recently between the Tulsa World Newspaper and the head of the Oklahoma Highway Patrol:

    1) Some of the people in the affected areas were almost in panic mode when the warnings for this series of storms were broadcast. The 2013 Moore tornado occurred a mere week prior, and all that some people could think to do was “be on the move” which was, in reality, the worst thing they could have done. One family of seven took cover in a drainage ditch. A flash flood occurred, and they have yet to find all the victims or their bodies.

    2) This series of storms had been forecast to begin between 3 PM CST and 5 PM CST – basically rush hour. We had tornadoes pop up all over northeast Oklahoma this day until after midnight the next morning.

    3) It is a fact that with all the rush hour traffic and the “extra” traffic resulting from people basically panicking, the roads were virtually grid-locked. There was no way for vehicles to turn around. (I also would imagine that most of the exit ramps were blocked by traffic as a result of folks seeing the lines of traffic snaking along, and then deciding to exit the freeways or interstates. It is also highly likely that the traffic lights were not in working order which, of course, would have created even more of a traffic problem).

    Wherever these men and their camera crews were situated in the El Reno, Oklahoma area, you can be certain that they did everything humanly possible to survive.

    If the men were blocked in by traffic, and if the El Reno tornado turned back toward them, they probably did not have many options to save themselves.

    Incidentally, I have heard through our local news media that another crew was travelling in a vehicle just behind these brave men, and one person out of that crew was seriously injured, too.

    My deepest condolences are sent to the families of these brave scientists! They weren’t out “chasing tornadoes” as though it were a sport or merely for money! They truly wanted to further science and the study of the monstrous, havoc-wreaking storms we know as tornadoes.

    May God bless and keep you is my prayer. DebB

  • Jeff Hertrick

    Wanted to let everyone know we published a new video of some of the work from Tim, Carl and Paul in the last 2 weeks. Many thanks to all of the heartfelt comments about their work.

  • Ronny

    Thoughts and prayers to all family and friends of these brave chasers. R.I.P.

  • Javier z.

    es algo interesante estas tormentas …
    Pero me da pena q gente muera …
    Yo creo q deberian alejarse de las zonas de los tornados … Para no poner en peligro sus vidas y la de los babys … El gobierno deberia rreubicarlos … Att : Javier Z …
    My facebook : javier fernando zambrano cedeno …

  • Md Saddam Hossain

    I living Brhamobaria District
    we are victim in tanodo in the place of Brhamonbaria
    few minis the tanodo destroyed are most of village and many people killed them many house broken and most of trees are damage

    • Jeff Hertrick

      Saddam is referring to the March 2013 tornado in Brahmanbaria District of Bangladesh.

  • Meena

    Very sad! The risk people take to bring us valuable information to save others lives must be valued. After watching that hail storm video I would never think that something that big would fall from the sky. I have never seen hail before but it certainly looks dangerous. He was also testing the impact it can have on aircraft which was good because what if it gets bigger than a soft ball and hit a flying plane that would be disastrous. As humans we must be grateful for the work others do to make our lives safer.

  • Meredith Burnett

    tornadoes are so fascinating. they died doing what the loved. they got to see the inside or a tornado. at least they got to see a beauty in nature before they died. something they loved! <3 God bless his family and friends.

  • Kathryn Preston

    I am so grieved by the deaths of these brave men. Their work has added to the knowledge base of these viscous storms. I grew up on north central Oklahoma and am very familiar with “tornado weather”. My condolences to their families. They will be missed.

  • Marie

    To family and friends of Tim, Paul, & Carl, I am so sorry for your loss. I was just viewing the videos of the tornadoes and I was so amazed at seeing so close up at what these guys actually do. They were amazing. They left a legacy to be remembered by. They had to love doing their jobs to do it. You can see it on their faces, and here it in their voices, they loved their jobs. Martin Luther King said if you’re going to be a street sweeper do it to the best of your ability so that heaven and earth may take note of such a great street sweeper. I am so thankful for people like these 3. Because of what they were dedicated to, so many people have lived, having time to get out of harms way because of these studies. I’m reminded of what the Creator, Jehovah God did at John 3:16. He loved the world of mankind so much that he gave is only-begotten son, Jesus Christ so that everyone exercising faith in him might not be destroyed but have everlasting life. Of course I’m not making them equal to Jesus, but I am reminded of his life giving sacrifice for mankind. So family and friends take comfort in Jesus words at John 5:28,29 of the resurrection hope. These words are faithful and true. The only thing that the creator cannot do is found in the bible book of Titus 1:2. So take comfort in his words daily. You are in my thoughts and prayers.

  • olrocapa

    saludos a los familiares y amigos de Tim, Paul y Carl., fascinados por los eventos de la naturaleza, han logrado acercarnos a eventos tan grandes que causan destrucc ion a su paso. Que Dios bendiga a su esposa e hijas, y demas familiares y allegados. hoy he aprendido algo mas sobre el riesgo de una profesion como esta, saludos amigos.

  • Jennifer S.

    My deepest condolences to the families and friends of Tim and Paul Samaras and Carl Young. I’ve been following Tim’s career for since his first appearance on Discovery’s Storm Chasers and always admired and marveled at his passion, inventiveness and dedication. His pioneering research was an enormous contribution to the scientific advancement in our understanding of severe weather phenomena and saved countless thousands of lives. He was always so concerned with everyone’s safety and so humble about his achievements.
    My heart aches for Tim’s family. My own dad died when I was young so I know what they are going through.
    Tim will be greatly missed and I wish I had had the honour of meeting him. R.I.P. Tim, Paul and Carl.

    Another turning point a fork stuck in the road
    Time grabs you by the wrist directs you where to go
    So make the best of this test and don’t ask why
    It’s not a question but a lesson learned in time
    It’s something unpredictable but in the end
    Is right I hope you’ve had the time of your life
    ~ Time of Your Life by Greenday

  • zombiequeen22

    i really LIKE this show

  • zombiequeen22

    LOL this is funny also sandy nice comment XD

  • lucian

    omg wow

  • catherine poland

    To all concerned. It is a shame to loose three men. But it was of their own stupid stunt that got them killed. Always trying to get the perfect shot. Forgetting that tornadoes can kill you. Having little to no respect for the storm or their own safety. But in the end they fiddling what the loved to do.

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