The deaths of three experienced storm chasers in Oklahoma Friday are raising questions about whether storm chasing has gone too far. Researchers Tim Samaras, his son Paul, and Carl Young were killed when a twister tore their vehicle off the road.
The crew had tracked twisters in tornado alley for years. Tim Samaras and Young both starred on the Discovery Channel's "Storm Chasers."
FOX 13 Chief Meteorologist Paul Dellegatto says storm chasing can provide valuable insight into tornadoes, when done correctly.
"There's huge value in a sense that you're getting all kinds of scientific information on tornadoes, which are still not completely understood," Dellegatto said.
The data collected can lead to a better understanding of storms and how to predict them. Storm chasers hope their risky work will mean earlier warnings when a tornado is coming.
Storm chaser Randy Denzer in Texas spoke to FOX 13 by phone. He shared a storm chasing video featuring his trip tracking tornadoes in Cherokee, Oklahoma last year. Denzer did not go back to Oklahoma last week because he says it has gotten too dangerous.
"When that thing turned left, we both knew that it was most likely going to seriously injure or kill some storm chasers. We knew it," Denzer said.
He says there are too many people with a cell phone in-hand, simply calling themselves "storm chasers." They clog roads and endanger legitimate researchers like the three who were killed Friday.
"We've known now for four or five years that the congestion has gotten so bad, you don't have escape routes anymore," Denzer told FOX 13. "You can't get away."
Dellegatto says there are two camps of storm chasers: those performing legitimate scientific research and those who are not.
"You've got the group that are basically thrill seekers. They want to get their videos on YouTube. They want to be tweeted," Dellegatto said.
Friday night, an experienced storm-chasing crew from the Weather Channel also took a direct hit. The team is okay, but it was a close call.
"I think that any experienced chaser would tell you 'yes, there is now a problem,'" Denzer said.
The Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Oklahoma says the three deaths Friday are believed to be the first among storm-chasing scientific researchers.
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
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