NARRAGANSETT, R.I. (WPRI) – Thirteen people were killed after another round of tragic tornadoes in Oklahoma, three of them were diehard storm chasers.
Tim Samaras, his son Paul, and colleague Carl Young lost their lives in the Oklahoma City area last week while chasing a twister. This dangerous profession has become increasingly popular over the years for those seeking the ultimate adrenaline rush, but the storm experts could not fight the storms.
Dr. Rich Yablonsky is a hurricane research scientist at the University of Rhode Island, but for one week a year, he partakes in the hazardous hobby.
When he started chasing storms in 2000, Yablonsky was one of the few risk-takers. Now, he says, one of the biggest obstacles is traffic jams. "There are quite a few chasers out that are out there now. Many more than when we started."
As if chasing a tornado is not dangerous enough, storm chasers face flooded roads, hail, straight line winds, and flying debris during their adventure. Yablonsky said it is critical to have good roads to use as escape routes.
"We've been in situations where we have been close to the wall cloud," said Yablonsky. "It is easy to lose sight of situational awareness, and you certainly learn lessons from that."
Dr. Yablonsky said he has no intentions to chase the rare tornadoes that occur in New England and does not recommend it due to trees and the nature of twister's development in the area.
"I will certainly give up a good tornado viewing experience for safety," said Yablonsky.
Despite the death toll in Oklahoma, Yablonsky intends to continue chasing storms as long as he is able to properly assess safety measures.
Copyright WPRI 12
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