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Storm chasers under increased scrutiny after Okla. tornado deaths

Posted at 7:38 PM, Jun 05, 2013
and last updated 2013-06-05 19:38:57-04

NEW YORK (PIX11) – All that was left of the white truck Veteran storm chasers Tim Samaras, his son Paul Samaras and fellow chaser Carl Young were in was a crumpled mess, crushed from the strength of Friday’s EF-3 tornado in Oklahoma.

The trio were known as experts in what they do, featured even on the Discovery Channel’s “Storm Chasers.” However, their deaths highlighted storm chasing in general and those who put their lives so dangerously at risk.

Is what they do for the thrill of science, business or for the rush?

Storm Chaser 2

The NY Times pointed at Mike Smith, a meteorologist, blogger and self proclaimed four-decade storm chaser, who focused his career on extreme weather.  He defended storm chasing by calling it a “Ground truth,” that “…most chasers are motivated to get vital data to improve future warnings…” and is a “…noble pursuit that has yielded tremendous benefits to American society.”

PIX11 Meteorologist Linda Church weighed in on the controversial occupation as one she believes at one time, in the 70s, 80s and even early 90s, provided a benefit.

“I’m not going to say all tornado chasers are trying to get the viral video of the moment. Some are meteorologists, some are trying to write papers for the AMS and trying to study tornadoes.  But what’s happened in the last 10 years since the advent of You Tube and the internet, people want their moment in the sun,” said Church.

There’s no denying, there is also money to be made from that perfect video or photo.  The thrill seeking even expanded into tornado tours, which has become a big business in the Midwest.