An adroit biography of a thrill-seeking storm chaser.
Dubbing tornadoes “the only real dragons the modern world has left,” journalist Hargrove, a weather fanatic himself, chronicles the life of the intrepid Tim Samaras. The author charts Samaras’ fascination with twisters back to an inquisitive childhood, when he was transfixed by the tempest in The Wizard of Oz and the raw power of severe weather systems in his native Colorado. From youthful tinkering to an early gig at the Denver Research Institute to becoming a prominent self-made engineer, Samaras also got married and had a son (whom he dressed as a foam tornado for Halloween). He dove head-first into his obsession after accessing real-time weather technology and meteorological gadgetry, which, as it advanced in sophistication over the decades, only served to heighten his insatiable curiosity and boundless enthusiasm to stand “inside the lungs of a storm.” An autodidact, he amassed knowledge and an impressive skill set through his experiences working for and in conjunction with a variety of tornado scientists and enthusiasts. Samaras constructed his own weather instruments and logged countless hours locked in the paths of tornadoes across the Midwest, the Southeast, and beyond. Hargrove refreshingly contributes quality information on what intrigues and motivates storm chasers, their unique camaraderie, and the evolution of the sophisticated tracking equipment in use today. The author, who never met Samaras, builds his biography through recordings, interviews, research, extensive video footage, and connections with his family, friends, colleagues, and “chase buddies.” Despite repeated warnings by peers that his increasingly perilous chases were venturing toward the suicidal, Samaras remained addicted to “the euphoric rush of pulling up just in time to see the cloud wisps gather and descend.” Samaras perished after being swept up in a tornado in Oklahoma in 2013, but Hargrove’s debut biography honors his legacy as an unparalleled storm chaser.
An enthralling profile of a storm enthusiast and adrenaline junkie who took his intense interest to extreme measures.