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Storms Chasers Among the Dead from Friday's Tornadoes

By By Kristina Pydynowski, senior meteorologist
June 06, 2013, 12:39:03 AM EDT

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Storm chasers Tim Samaras, his son, Paul, and Carl Young are among the 20 people who died when tornadoes ripped through Oklahoma late Friday.

"At this time, our office can confirm twenty (20) fatalities from the May 31, 2013 tornadoes [sic]," Amy Elliott, Chief Administrative Officer for Oklahoma's Office of the Chief Medical Examiner said in an email to AccuWeather.com on Monday.

"These victims include seven (7) children and thirteen (13) adults."

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In a Facebook post, Tony Laubach from Twistex confirmed that among the victims were Tim Samaras, his son, Paul, and Carl Young. The three lost their lives during the El Reno, Okla., tornado, which has been given an EF-3 rating by National Weather Service Survey Teams.

Tim Samaras appeared on the Discovery Channel's Storm Chasers series. His biography page for that series states that he ran the scientific field program, TWISTEX (Tactical Weather Instrumented Sampling in Tornadoes Experiment.

There were 25 tornado sightings reported to NOAA's Storm Prediction Center. That number likely includes some sightings of the same tornado, but does not include any of the tornadoes around the Oklahoma City area.


Preliminary damage paths for Friday's tornadoes, from the National Weather Service's Norman Office, show that downtown Oklahoma City missed a direct hit as two twisters passed just to the southwest and southeast.

The city's Will Rogers World Airport reported a 71-mph wind gust at 7:26 p.m. CDT as one tornado passed by immediately to the north. Nearby Tinker Air Force Base recorded a 87-mph wind gust.

It was not just tornadoes that targeted the Oklahoma City area late Friday, but also flash flooding.

Will Rogers Airport received a record 5.64 inches of rain on Friday. Runoff from that rain flooded pedestrian tunnels in downtown Oklahoma City, while flood waters half engulfed cars on the west-southwest side of the city.


Shortly after the tornadoes struck the Oklahoma City area, St. Louis became the target of other tornadoes between 8 and 8:15 p.m. CDT.

Tornado damage to the St. Louis area included the roof being ripped off the Hollywood Casino in Maryland Heights, three to four outbuildings destroyed at Lambert Field and tree damage in the city's suburb of Bridgeton.

Homes were damaged in the nearby communities of Harvester and Weldon Spring, Mo. A camper near Harvester was lifted over a parked car and pushed into a home, while a passenger car was shoved eight feet into a front yard.


Friday's severe thunderstorms and tornadoes erupted in the warm and humid air pouring northward from the Gulf of Mexico as a cold front approached from the northern Plains. Extremely drier air from the Desert Southwest was another key ingredient to the formation of the tornadoes in Oklahoma.

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