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<h3 class="titlespan">Prelude|3</h3>
<h2 class="title">Chasing the Beast</h2>
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<p class="caption">An approaching tornado looms behind Paul Samaras while he was storm chasing near Bowdle, S.D., on May 22, 2010. <span class="photocred">Photo by Ed Grubb, Special to The Denver Post</span></p>
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<p class="lead">Ed Grubb, a storm chaser from Thornton, had spent four days in mid-May chasing with the Samarases and Young. Over early-morning motel breakfasts, he and Tim Samaras talked about life, kids, growing older.</p>
<p>Samaras lamented that his high cholesterol kept him from eating cheeseburgers, a favorite storm-chasing fast food that had been elevated to the role of good luck charm. The tradition grew from a time, years earlier, when Samaras was dining at McDonald&rsquo;s and had one cheeseburger left to eat. A storm blew up, prompting him to toss the paper-wrapped burger on the dashboard and take off on the chase.</p>
<p>When that storm paid off and produced a sizable tornado, a superstition was born. The burger remained on the dash for the rest of the spring, eventually hardening into something like a hockey puck. And so it was: Each subsequent season, the crew performed the ceremonial placing of the cheeseburger on the dashboard of the chase vehicle.</p>
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<a href="javascript:void(0);" onclick="revealBio(peopleEdG);"><p class="caption mugcap">Ed Grubb</p></a>
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<p>After that week of storm chasing in mid-May, Grubb separated from the group and connected with former TWISTEX chaser Tony Laubach for an uneventful week of tooling around southwest Kansas that ended, for Grubb, on May 31 in Wichita. It was his daughter&rsquo;s birthday, and he promised he&rsquo;d get back to the Denver area in time to celebrate with her. Laubach would soldier on.</p>
<p>As he loaded his car early that morning at the motel, Grubb could feel something in the air. The wind, the humidity, the low clouds &mdash; everything pointed toward an active day that he didn&rsquo;t want to miss. But he intended to keep his promise, so he went back into the motel room and woke up Laubach to say goodbye.</p>
<p>&ldquo;I looked at him and said, &lsquo;You&rsquo;re going to like today. It&rsquo;s going to be a good day,&rsquo; &rdquo; Grubb recalled.</p>
<p>On the road back to Denver, he monitored the weather via his mobile Internet connection.</p>
<p>By the time he pulled into his driveway late that afternoon, a PDS — Particularly Dangerous Situation — tornado watch had been issued for the Oklahoma City area.</p>
<p>When things started shaking, Grubb pulled up Laubach&rsquo;s live video stream on one screen and a local news station on another. Because he knew Samaras had taken the Cobalt to the area for a possible &ldquo;side chase&rdquo; to their lightning work, he knew the trio would be in the vicinity.</p>
<p>He just had no idea where.</p>
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<p class="caption">The TWISTEX crew &mdash; Ed Grubb, Carl Young, Tony Laubach, Tim Samaras and Paul Samaras &mdash; poses after a storm chase near Kirksville, Mo., on May 13, 2009. They are wearing Washington Redskins jerseys in deference to Laubach, a big fan of the team, who was celebrating his birthday. <span class="photocred">Photo courtesy of Ed Grubb</span></p>
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<p>Samaras and Young didn&rsquo;t usually run <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IVUHdCGqiSI" title="El Reno OK Tornado with Spotter Network Dots - YouTube.com" target="_blank">the Spotter Network</a> live during a chase. The network, technically a nonprofit that serves the storm chasing community as well as government agencies, uses GPS coordinates of members&rsquo; smart phones to track them during a weather event and post their positions on an online map.</p>
<p>When <a href="http://dsc.discovery.com/tv-shows/storm-chasers/videos/tribute-tim-samaras-carl-young.htm" title="Remembering Tim Samaras and Carl Young - Discovery Channel tribute" target="_blank">Samaras began to appear on television in 2008</a> as one of the stars in the Discovery Channel&rsquo;s reality series &ldquo;Storm Chasers,&rdquo; he gained a new level of celebrity. His appearances with the TWISTEX crew in four of the five seasons before the show was canceled in 2012 enhanced his already popular standing.</p>
<p>It had become more and more of a challenge to carve out work time when the team moved in the same geographic circles as the growing herd of extreme weather buffs.</p>
<p>Although the TV gig went a long way toward financing his scientific work, Samaras eventually found himself doing a delicate dance to reconcile research and showbiz.</p>
<p>&ldquo;I don&rsquo;t think Tim had any desire to be on TV in the first place,&rdquo; said Laubach, who appeared on the show with him for the last few years. &ldquo;But it was a funding source for us. That was the trade-off.&rdquo;</p>
<p>As gracefully as he seemed to straddle the line between science and celebrity, Samaras also negotiated the practical elements of his passion. He tempered the pulse-thumping pace of the chase with a cool demeanor that allowed him to focus on planting his probes amid meteorological chaos.</p>
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<blockquote>I don&rsquo;t know if I&rsquo;ve ever seen anyone as calm under pressure. It&rsquo;s one thing to build the instruments. It&rsquo;s another to be able to actually get them into the target.</blockquote><div class="attrib">Bruce Lee</div>
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<p>&ldquo;Tim was almost perfectly designed for this,&rdquo; said Bruce Lee, a senior atmospheric scientist at WindLogics, Inc. in Grand Rapids, Minn., and a longtime TWISTEX collaborator. &ldquo;I don&rsquo;t know if I&rsquo;ve ever seen anyone as calm under pressure. It&rsquo;s one thing to build the instruments. It&rsquo;s another to be able to actually get them into the target.&rdquo;</p>
<p>Cathy Finley, also a senior atmospheric scientist at WindLogics and Lee&rsquo;s wife, met Samaras at a 2005 workshop where they determined their research efforts complemented each other. Finley and Lee, who began their work at the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley before moving into the private sector in Minnesota, focused on near-tornado environments; Samaras focused his efforts within the tornado.</p>
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<a href="javascript:void(0);" onclick="revealBio(peopleCathyF);"><p class="caption mugcap">Cathy Finley</p></a>
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<p>This season, with TWISTEX funding limited, Finley and Lee had done a little chasing on their own, honing their storm strategy skills in anticipation of meeting up with Samaras in June. On May 30, they were heading east out of the northern Oklahoma town of Guthrie as a storm died in the distance.</p>
<p>Looking out the window of their car, they saw the Samarases and Young parked with the Cobalt on the side of the road. They swung their car around and, for about an hour in the surreal late-evening light of the decaying storm, chatted with their friends and colleagues for what would be the last time.</p>
<p>The TWISTEX guys seemed undecided about pursuing the potentially huge storms in central Oklahoma the next day. Lee and Finley decided to pass on the Oklahoma opportunity and begin their 15-hour drive back to Minnesota.</p>
<p>They talked about how the Interstate 40 corridor around Oklahoma City, with so many amateur weather enthusiasts clogging the roads, had become a frustrating and dangerous place to operate.</p>
<p>They talked about an amazing thing: For all the perils, no serious storm chaser had yet been overtaken and killed by a tornado.</p>
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<a href="chapter4.html"><h2>Chapter 4 | Initiation</h2></a>
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<div id="peopleTimS" class="reveal-modal people-modal infobox">
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<h2>Tim Samaras</h2>
<p>The Colorado-based storm chaser founded the meteorological research group dubbed TWISTEX.</p>
<p>A self-taught engineer without college degrees, his career spanned both serious science and celebrity as one of the leading characters in the Discovery Channel show, &ldquo;Storm Chasers.&rdquo;</p>
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<div id="peoplePaulS" class="reveal-modal people-modal infobox">
<img class="bio-mug" src="./img/portrait-paul-samaras.jpg">
<h2>Paul Samaras</h2>
<p>The son of Tim Samaras and photographer/videographer for TWISTEX, Paul and his quiet, creative personality quickly grew in stature among storm chasers as his passion for capturing images merged with his father&rsquo;s passion for studying tornadoes.</p>
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<h2>Carl Young</h2>
<p>The adjunct professor at a community college also worked as an avid environmentalist and 11-year TWISTEX partner to Tim Samaras. His ability to find &ldquo;hidden nuggets&rdquo; in weather patterns made him a highly regarded forecaster, while his effervescent personality made him the life of the party.</p>
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<h2>Ed Grubb</h2>
<p>The Thornton, Colo.-based storm chaser and longtime colleague of Tim Samaras had a lesser role in the TV &ldquo;Storm Chasers&rdquo; series but remained a frequent chase partner. He toured Tornado Alley with the Samarases and Young until just days before the El Reno twister.</p>
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<h2>Gabe Garfield</h2>
<p>The Norman, Okla.-based storm researcher followed the El Reno tornado in the field and made a narrow escape from its path. Later, he compiled radar data, video images and other information to help reconstruct the twister&rsquo;s path and its intersection with the TWISTEX team.</p>
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<div id="peopleMarcA" class="reveal-modal people-modal infobox">
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<h2>Marc Austin</h2>
<p>The Norman, Okla.-based National Weather Service forecaster issued the tornado warnings that preceded the May 31 El Reno twister. He manned the NWS desk as the tornado ripped across a rural patch of central Oklahoma.</p>
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<h2>Erik Fox</h2>
<p>The Waurika, Okla.-based storm chaser had toured &ldquo;Dixie Alley&rdquo; with good friend Carl Young earlier in the spring. In the wake of the El Reno tornado, Fox helped organize the volunteer search for the belongings of the TWISTEX crew.</p>
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<h2>Dan Robinson</h2>
<p>A storm chaser from New Baden, Ill., Robinson narrowly escaped the violence of the El Reno tornado. His vehicle preceded the TWISTEX vehicle down Reuter Road by a mere 28 seconds and his video proved crucial in providing clues to the fate of the Samarases and Young.</p>
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<h2>Bruce Lee</h2>
<p>A senior atmospheric scientist at WindLogics, Inc., in Grand Rapids, Minn., Lee worked with TWISTEX for several years on various tornado projects. He and his wife, Cathy Finley, both formerly taught at the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley.</p>
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<h2>Cathy Finley</h2>
<p>A senior atmospheric scientist at WindLogics, Inc., in Grand Rapids, Minn., Finley met Tim Samaras at a 2005 workshop and determined their research efforts complemented each other. She and her husband, Bruce Lee, both previously taught at the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley.</p>
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