UW-Milwaukee students reflect on storm chasing in Oklahoma

MILWAUKEE (WITI) — Three of the 14 confirmed dead as a result of storms last week in the already storm-ravaged Oklahoma were storm chasers: Timothy Samaras, his son Paul and Carl Young. The death of these researchers have some looking at whether the popularity of the chase is crowding the dangerous playing field.

Timothy Samaras was a veteran tornado researcher who had appeared on Discovery Channel’s “Storm Chasers” program.

“It was very, very sad. You wouldn’t expect researchers that are very advanced in our field to end up like that,” Josh Verbeten said.

Josh Verbeten is a member of the UW-Milwaukee Atmospheric Science Club. He and several club members were in Oklahoma when the Moore tornado hit.

“Went through Moore probably about two to three hours before it actually hit,” Verbeten said.

Brock Burghardt returned from Oklahoma a day before the El Reno tornado struck on Friday, May 31st.

“I can say unfortunately, many people saw this coming — that eventually there was going to be a violent tornado. It was going to be rain wrapped. It was going to make a sudden turn in a populated area and it was going to catch chasers off guard. Never would have thought it would be these three chasers that were involved because they were so cautious,” Burghardt said.

Burghardt says the other growing problem is too many storm chasers  — and citizens chasing the chasers.

“Too many people on the roadways that can take away your emergency route to get away from it.  That can be taken away and it sounds like what the case was Friday evening, so it’s definitely changed my perspective on chasing,” Burghardt said.

Burghardt says he doesn’t plan to chase the big storms near heavily-populated areas of central Oklahoma.

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