printer friendly iconemail a friend icon
Field Notes
Photograph by TBD
Tim Samaras

What was your best experience in the field covering this story?

We made our tornado forecast on June 11, and we were right on the mark. We were actually in position when the tornado formed. We sat and waited for it to come toward us, and when it was close enough we got out the probes, dropped them, and moved out of the way. That was probably one of our best days, being in the right spot at the right time. Our timing was absolutely perfect.

What was your worst experience in the field covering this story?

We caught about six more tornadoes after that first one on June 11. The last one was right at sunset just north of Ames, Iowa, so we decided to head for Des Moines to find a place to stay. It was about 11:30 when we got there, but no hotels were available. A big convention was in town, and all the hotels were booked. Around 1:30 in the morning, we managed to find a place some 40 miles (60 kilometers) south of Des Moines. The only room they had was one with three beds on the second floor so, exhausted as we were, we three guys had to carry the heavy probe and hundreds of pounds of gear up the stairs. We'd started the previous day at 6 a.m. to catch the first storm, so we were really tired. But once we got everything into the room, we all wanted to see the video from the probe. So we duped the video that night and didn't get to bed until close to 3 a.m.

What was your quirkiest experience in the field covering this story?

It was close to 10 p.m. the night of May 12 and pitch black out. We heard another tornado warning in south-central Kansas, so my partner Carl Young and I decided to check it out.

We approached the storm from the north. Wind was blowing and it was raining. We stopped along the north-south road to try to find the tornado and, sure enough, it formed. But it was to the west and headed right for us. We were actually thinking of deploying the probe in the tornado's path in the dead of night, but we couldn't see it unless lightning flashed—at that point every 30 seconds to a minute and a half. Every time the sky lit up, the tornado seemed to jump closer. But we couldn't get out of the car because the wind had increased close to 80 miles an hour (130 kilometers an hour). We were afraid it would catch the open car doors and rip them right off. We sat and waited for a bit, but the tornado got so close that I told Carl we weren't going to deploy the probe. So we drove out of the way. About 60 seconds later the tornado crossed the road right where we had been sitting.