Monday, June 3, 2013

The Tornado that Took An Inspiration

Planting the Seed
"So, I want you to record your observations of the weather systems.  The clouds.  The temperature.  The winds.  And then we will discuss the data and make predictions."   
I was so fascinated by this weather exercise, that with great care, diligence and determination, I have been observing weather patterns since.  Mrs. Emory.  Eighth grade Physical Science.  A young mind at work.  A planted seed budding with curiosity.  

"MOM!  There's a TORNADO coming!"  
By high school, I had moved beyond cumulonimbus clouds and onto complex weather anomalies.  As an air force family, my grandmother, aunt and uncles all told stories about surviving tornadoes while stationed in tornado alley.  The erratic nature.  All the unknowns.  My curiosity mixed with fear and fascination.  The first hand accounts made it all the more real, compelling, curious.      
One night I ran screaming to my mother's room "Mom!  There's a tornado coming!"  It was a windy night.  I knew tornadoes sounded like a train.  I was convinced we should take cover. She rolled over, said, "Honey, do you hear the horn?  It IS a train."  
Epic fail.  
We lived in sunny California, pre-global warming crisis, so there never was a threat of any real tornadoes.  My mind, still obsessed with a compulsion to know, to understand, to study meteorology, even if it meant waking my mom in the middle of the night for a false alarm.  

Oh, You're Going to Study Space?
When you tell people you want to be a meteorologist, most assume you want to study meteors, from outer space.  That's not quite right.  It's Atmospheric Sciences to be exact.  
"The weather for your week will be mostly mild, in the mid 70's and a slight breeze from the northwest.  Stay tuned for the latest news updates at 11."  Yes, that's what I wanted to be.  A broadcaster.  Meteorologist.  "You've got a great face for television."  they'd say.  
In the end, I decided to make the switch and study chemistry instead.  Despite this educational change, my fascination and curiosity with the atmosphere and all it's magic, has never faded.  A dedicated follower of all things weather.  
Storm Chasers
With the likes of Reed Timmer and Sean Casey in Discovery Channel's, Storm Chasers, my curiosity and passions were matched.  "There's a massive tornado straight ahead!"  "Never stop chasing."  With Reed's mottoes and raw passions, how could you not become an instant follower?  I could sit and watch Storm Chasers streaming on Netflix for hours at a time.  Adrenaline junky on the couch, waiting for the next sight of a rain wrapped wedge headed straight for the teams.  TIV and Dominator...who'd get the next perfect intercept?  

A True Atmospheric Scientist and Researcher
In the background of the cowboy Storm Chasers, with steadfast determination, and a calm demeanor, stood Tim Samaras.  A true Atmospheric Scientist, not after the brazen show of adrenaline and rush, but the cautious and strategic researcher, determined to collect the data to protect innocent lives from being taken by unforgiving tornadoes.  No agenda, other than to give his curiosity and brain to science, to discover, observe and relay the necessary complex information.   
Tornado Whisperer, they called him. 
The footage of Tim Samaras standing in the field, arms outstretched, as if he was communicating back and forth with the storm.  The wind lifting his hair, his clothes in the breeze.  "We've gotta move!" he'd yell, and the team would run to their designated spaces, ready to collect data from the quickly approaching tornado.  How would he know?  What was he feeling?  My wanna-be Atmospheric Scientist brain would analyze it through the television, drooling over the abundance of experience, wealth of knowledge, and scope of curiosity put to the best possible use.  Always cautious.  Respecting the reverence and the intensity of nature's fury.  Tim Samaras was a good storm chaser.  
With the cancellation of Storm Chasers, I became an even more dedicated follower of each of the stars of the show.  Announcements on Facebook, websites, and documentaries.  Twistex.  TVN.  It was evident in all of Tim Samaras' posts that he was as passionate and personable as he'd been portrayed on the television series.  Leading from the center of his passions, raw and unbridled curiosity led his every move.  Truly dedicated.  A true scientist.  

The Tornado that Took An Inspiration
I am devastated to learn that Tim Samaras, his son Paul, and his colleague Carl Young, were killed in a tornado in Oklahoma on Friday.  The atmospheric scientist wanna-be in me, that considers myself an atmospheric scientist even if only from the raw passion and curiosity, for lightning, for weather systems, storms and tornadoes, is absolutely heartbroken.  

The Oklahoma tornado took an inspiration.  A legend.  Good men.  Beautiful souls.  Amazing researchers. The men best known for their safety and caution gone with a random swirl of the very thing they loved studying most.  It is incredibly tragic.  

Tim Samaras makes me wish I had continued my studies in atmospheric science.  If only to be closer to his love of learning and study of the nature of these storms.  I wish I could have met him, heard one of his lectures, been able to thank him for his sacrifices his steadfast determination and his natural curiosity.  He was an inspiration to the network of atmospheric scientists, even us wanna-bes, and he will be greatly missed.  

May his legacy of work studying tornadoes and lightning live on in the passions of young little ones asked to look at the sky and make observations.  

May Tim Samaras' and Carl Young's families feel the love and warmth that surround them, hold them up, and send them peace and hope during this difficult tragic loss.   May all the curious minds, with the same passion for storms, stay safe in the storm chase.  

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