EL RENO, OK (ABC) - Storm chaser and meteorologist Tim Samaras, his storm chaser partner Carl Young, and his son Paul Samaras, were among the 13 people killed in the latest round of tornadoes and severe weather to hit Oklahoma Friday night, according to family members.
They were killed near El Reno in an EF3 tornado with winds up to 165 mph that ripped through the Oklahoma City area during rush hour.
Samaras, 55, his son Paul, 24, and Young, 45, were all killed while trying to document and research the storm. Tim Samaras was found inside his car with his seat belt still on. Paul and Young were pulled from a car by a tornado. One of them was found dead a half mile away.
"They put themselves in harm's way so that they can educate the public about the destructive power of these storms," Canadian County Undersheriff Chris West told the Associated Press.
Tim Samaras, 55, dedicated the last three decades to learning about tornadoes while he successfully combined his passion for storm chasing and an engineering career.
"I'm not sure exactly why I chase storms. Perhaps it's to witness the incredible beauty of what Mother Nature can create" Samaras said in a Youtube video posted on his website.
Samaras' brother, Jim Samaras posted a statement on Tim Samaras' Facebook book early Sunday morning:
"It truly is sad that we lost my great brother Tim and his great son, Paul. Our hearts also go out to the Carl Young family as well as they are feeling the same feelings we are today," the statement said. "They all unfortunately passed away but doing what they LOVED. Chasing Tornado's. I look at it that he is in the 'big tornado in the sky...'"
ABC News meteorologist Ginger Zee knew Tim Samaras well and said his death was a reminder of the power of the storm.
"Out of all storm chasers he doesn't take chances, he's the one that puts the probes in the path of the tornado to learn more about them. He is not, you know, a young gun running around making bad decisions person, so I am so sad and shocked, it is such a loss for the community," Zee said of Samaras.
Watch the "Nightline" 2012 interview with Tim Samaras on the mystery of how lightning forms.
Zee said Samaras left behind a legacy of work.
"He was a pioneer, he was getting things and teaching us things that no one else could do. This is a guy who was not just a meteorologist, he's an engineer, he's one of the smartest men I have ever met in my life," she said.
Samaras holds the world record for "measuring the lowest barometric pressure drop (100 millibars) inside of a tornado that destroyed the town of Manchester South Dakota, on June 24, 2003," according to his website.
Samaras also built a special probe equipped with cameras that "are able to look inside of a tornado safely."
The probe allowed Samaras and Young to document the tornado from different angles and speeds when they deployed the device in the path of a twister on June 11, 2004 near Storm Lake Iowa.
Terry Garcia, Executive Vice President, National Geographic Society said Samaras was "a courageous and brilliant scientist who fearlessly pursued tornadoes and lightning in the field in an effort to better understand these phenomena."
"The National Geographic Society made 18 grants to Tim for research over the years for field work like he was doing in Oklahoma at the time of his death, and he was one of our 2005 Emerging Explorers. Tim's research included creation of a special probe he would place in the path of a twister to measure data from inside the tornado; his pioneering work on lightning was featured in the August 2012 issue of National Geographic magazine," Garcia said in a statement. "Though we sometimes take it for granted, Tim's death is a stark reminder of the risks encountered regularly by the men and women who work for us. This is an enormous loss for his family, his wide circle of friends and colleagues and National Geographic."
Samaras also founded TWISTEX (Tactical Weather Instrumented Sampling in Tornadoes EXperiment) research group and appeared on the Discovery Channel show "Storm Chasers."
"This is a devastating loss to the meteorological, research, and storm chasing communities. I ask that you keep the families in your thoughts and prayers during this very difficult time," Tony Laubach, meteorologist and TWISTEX collaborator posted on the TWISTEX Facebook page . "There is some comfort in knowing these men passed on doing what they loved... Your support means the world. Thank you."
Young was chasing tornadoes with Samaras every spring since 2003 and together they tracked more than 125 tornadoes, according to his bio on the "Storm Chasers" website.
The pair met while Young attended a meteorlogical conference. Young started out working on Hollywood film sets until he was inspired to study the science of tornado dynamics.
He graduated from the University of Nevada, Reno with a masters degree in atmospheric science.
We're deeply saddened by the loss of @tim_samaras, his son Paul, and their colleague Carl Young. Our thoughts & prayers go to their families," The Discovery Channel tweetedthis afternoon.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
YUKON, Okla. (AP) - A hospital official in Oklahoma City says more than 75 people were injured during a burst of severe storms and tornadoes on Friday night.
Integris spokeswoman Brooke Cayot said Saturday that the hospital chain had treated 77 people. One remains in critical condition.
Five people died during the storm, which struck the Oklahoma City area during rush hour, trapping many people in their cars along Interstate 40.
The National Weather Service reported Friday evening that "several" tornadoes rolled across the prairie. The official number of tornadoes has not yet been determined.
A St. Louis man is among the dead after an EF5 tornado hit Moore, Oklahoma last week. The twister killed 24 people and among them, St. Louis native Leslie Johnson.
Johnson's ex-wife and three children live in south St. Louis. His family says Johnson had gone to Oklahoma two months ago to search for work.
Johnson had taken refuge in a closet when the storm hit and was killed when the building he was in was flattened.
A funeral home in Oklahoma City donated the cremation services, but his family needs help paying for a funeral. Donations can be made at the following website.
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama will tour the damage from the massive tornado that devastated the Oklahoma City area.
Obama plans to meet with affected families and thank first responders during a visit Sunday to Moore, Okla. The White House says Obama wants a firsthand look at the recovery from the tornado that killed 24 and damaged an estimated 12,000 homes Monday afternoon.
The town of Moore is a community of 41,000 people located about 10 miles from Oklahoma City.
Obama offered prayers for the people of Oklahoma from the White House in recent days. He said that "while the road ahead will be long, their country will be with them every single step of the way."
Meanwhile, commencement ceremonies went ahead for high school grads from Moore. They took place in nearby Oklahoma city. Many of the grads say Moore is home and they don't plant to stray too far.
MOORE, Okla. (AP) — Nicknamed "The Wall," 8-year-old Kyle Davis loved soccer and going to Monster Truck exhibitions at the fairgrounds with his grandfather. JaNae Hornsby, 9, loved to draw, sing, and be a big sister and cousin to her younger relatives.
The two were among the young victims of Monday's monstrous tornado, their small bodies pulled from the rubble of Plaza Towers Elementary School after it was reduced to a massive heap of bricks and twisted metal. Twenty-two others were killed, including five other 9-year-olds at the one-story building.
As the ominous funnel cloud began its 17-mile path, Kyle took shelter in the school's gymnasium with dozens of other students, his grandfather Marvin Dixon said Wednesday.
"He was in the position that the teacher told them to be in —crouched down with their hands over their heads," Dixon said. "The medical examiner said either some big rock or beam or something fell right on the back of his neck. He said he died instantly."
Dixon counted his grandson among the lucky ones. The medical examiner reported the six other children who died at the school suffocated after being buried under a mass of bricks, steel and other materials as the building collapsed. Dixon said a morgue worker told him some of the children who suffocated were huddled in one of the school's bathrooms.
"He said some of the kids were hurt so bad it was tough to even identify them," Dixon said, his voice cracking with emotion.
Kyle earned his nickname, "The Wall," because of the ferocity with which he played his favorite sport — soccer.
"He was a pretty big kid," his grandfather said. "Whenever he had the ball, other kids would just bounce off of him. That's why they called him that. ... He was just the kindest, most giving kid you would ever meet. He had a grin from ear to ear."
JaNae's father Joshua rushed toward the Plaza Towers school when he realized the powerful tornado packing speeds up to 200 mph was bearing down on the town. But it took him 30 minutes. The tornado already slammed through the building.
"I was just in panic," Hornsby said, recalling those minutes when he realized the school had been hit and he hadn't made it in time.
"I just kept going until I got to the school and when I got to the school I started to look for JaNae," he said Wednesday, sitting on the small front porch of a relative's home in nearby Oklahoma City.
By then, the third-grader was among those suffocated beneath the debris. The official cause of death was mechanical asphyxia.
Frantic, he combed through the rubble with other students and first responders looking desperately for JaNae. Slowly, more and more children were pulled from the rubble. Some had scratches and bruises. Some were bleeding. But they were alive. And none of them were JaNae.
With each passing minute, "there was still more panic," Hornsby said.
For two days, Hornsby and a small group of parents whose children were not found in the rubble waited at a church in Moore.
"I was still hopeful that maybe she would turn up," Hornsby said, thinking she might be at a friend's house or someplace else.
On Tuesday, he was at the church when he received the news.
His daughter was among the 10 children killed, buried under the rubble of a school that had always been a safe haven for them.
The family's house, just three blocks from the school, also was destroyed. He hasn't gone back to see if he might find a few of JaNae's things to keep.
"JaNae was the life of the party. If JaNae was there you were having a good time. She liked to sing, be a big sister, be a big cousin. She liked to draw," he said smiling as he remembered the small girl.
As family gathered to make funeral arrangements and comfort one another, Hornsby looked behind him into the house.
"If she was here she would just have everybody laughing and she would be in the midst of everything. She loved the spotlight," he said.
The family of 9-year-old Christopher Legg described him as someone who never met a stranger. Christopher, who also suffocated inside the school, played football, baseball and basketball and "loved to roughhouse and wrestle" with his father, older brother and little sister, his family said in a statement. The youngster also faced his diagnosis with skin cancer and joint problems in his knees "with the same strength and enthusiasm that he had for life."
Sydney Angle, another 9-year-old killed at Plaza Towers, was lovingly referred to as "a pickle" by her softball coach Landon McNeill, who was with the girl's parents as they waited at a church for news about their daughter.
"Sydney was real quirky," McNeill said. "She could be anywhere and have fun doing it."
Tornado survivors in Joplin, Missouri are reaching out to help the victims of yesterday's devastating Oklahoma storm.
Officials in the southwest Missouri city have brought together a team of public safety employees that they are sending to the tornado-stricken town of Moore, Oklahoma.
More than 150 people died when Joplin was devastated two years ago by the most deadly tornado in U.S. history.
A team of about a dozen Joplin area police and firefighters have been assembled to assist in Moore.
Meantime, more severe weather is in the forecast for parts of the central United States already reeling from powerful tornadoes this week.
The Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Okla., says golf ball-sized hail, powerful winds and isolated, strong tornadoes could strike areas of Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana and Oklahoma on Tuesday. The area at risk does not include Moore, Okla., where dozens of people were killed in a monstrous tornado Monday.
Forecasters say the greatest risk for severe weather Tuesday includes the Dallas-Fort Worth area. The National Weather Service is predicting flash flooding in parts of Arkansas and Louisiana as the storm system dumps several inches of rain in a short time frame Tuesday afternoon.
In Moore, where search and rescue operations continue, showers and thunderstorms are expected Tuesday with heavy rainfall.
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Officials at two hospitals say they're treating nearly 60 patients, including more than a dozen children, after a massive tornado hit suburban Oklahoma City.
Integris Southwest Medical Center spokeswoman Brooke Cayot (KAY'-ot) said 10 of 37 patients being treated at that facility Monday are listed in critical condition. Twelve are in serious and 15 others are listed in fair or good condition.
Five of the patients are children, including two who came from the Plaza Towers Elementary School, where an Associated Press photographer saw several children being pulled from the rubble. Cayot could not confirm the children's conditions.
Spokesman Scott Coppenbarger says another 20 patients of various ages are being treated at OU Medical Center. He says eight of them are children.
MOORE, Okla. (AP) - Neighborhoods are flattened and buildings are on fire after a mile-wide tornado moved through the Oklahoma City area.
Television footage on Monday afternoon showed homes and buildings that had been reduced to rubble in Moore, Okla., south of Oklahoma City. Footage also showed vehicles littering roadways south and southwest of Oklahoma City.
There were no immediate reports of injuries.
The suburb of Moore was hit hard by a tornado in 1999. The storm had the highest winds ever recorded near the earth's surface.
There are no immediate reports of damage after four earthquakes rattled central Oklahoma overnight.
The U.S. Geological Survey reports that an earthquake and a series of aftershocks began about 1:45 a.m. Central Time with a magnitude 3.0 quake centered about 3 miles west-southwest of Chandler, Oklahoma.
That was followed a few minutes later by a magnitude 4.3 quake near Oklahoma City. US Geological Service puts the epicenter of the quake 7 miles east-northeast of Luther, Oklahoma, and about 29 miles east-northeast of Oklahoma City.
At 2:15 a.m. the ground shook again. This time a 2.8 magnitude quake struck about 54 miles east of the capital, followed a minute later by a 3.3 magnitude temblor about 4 miles east of Luther.
Steven Ray Thacker is to be put to death at 6 p.m. Tuesday at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester for the December 1999 killing of Laci Dawn Hill in Mayes County.
Thacker - who waived his clemency hearing - would be the first person executed in Oklahoma this year.
Prosecutors say Thacker killed Hill after answering a newspaper ad she and her husband had placed to sell a pool table - then later killed Forrest Boyd in Missouri and Ray Patterson in Tennessee in the 10 days following Hill's slaying.
Thacker also faces a death penalty for the Tennessee slaying and life in prison in Missouri.