Chasing The Storm, Chasing The Wind

Feb 9, 2020

The Life of Legendary Story Chaser, Tim Samaras.

On this episode of Arts & Letters, we’ll be talking with participant journalist Brantley Hargrove about his book The Man Who Caught the Storm: The Life of Legendary Tornado Chaser Tim Samaras.

We'll hear about Samaras' early days growing up in Lakewood, Colorado as a tinkerer, his work focusing on blast testing, and his obsession with probing the inside of tornados.

Published by Simon & Schuster

One of the most infamous of storm chasers, Samaras was driven by obsession to understand how things worked.

With no formal college training, he turned his engineering mind to solve the modern mystery of what was happening inside of a tornado--a mystery that at the time was still unknown to scientists and meteorologists. Through ingenuity and tenacity, Tim pushed the boundaries of science. 

Tim founded Twistex--a research team that logged over 35,000 miles during two peak months of tornado season each year until his untimely death in 2013. 

“As a kid, it wasn’t enough for Tim Samaras that the gadgets around him worked.  He had an irrepressible need to know how and why. The bane of his mother’s household appliances, he dismantled her blender to see why the blades spun so fast. At ten years old, he autopsied the television set in an attempt to determine how colors and shapes flashed across the screen. That these things worked perfectly fine before he took them apart was not something he seemed capable of taking for granted.”

Legendary storm chaser Tim Samaras (1957-2013)

Samaras captured the first recordings from inside a tornado, using instrumentation of his own design. Team Twistex acheived fame through the Discovery Channel show, Storm Chasers.  

Participant journalist Brantley Hargrove

Brantley Hargrove is a journalist who has written for Wired, Popular Mechanics, and Texas Monthly. In his reporting, he has explored the world of South American jewel thieves who terrorize diamond dealers in South Florida.

He's gone inside the effort to reverse-engineer supertornadoes using supercomputers. And he has chased violent storms from the Great Plains down to the Texas coast, including a land-falling Category 4 hurricane and one of the rarest tornadic events in recent memory: twin EF4 tornadoes that chewed through a small Nebraskan farming village. He lives in Dallas, Texas, with his wife, Renee, and their two cats.

Singer songwriter Ashtyn Barbaree

Composer Michael Shackelford
Composer Joseph Fuller

Thank you to singer and songwriter, Ashtyn Barbaree. Thanks to composer Joseph Fuller for the soundtrack for this episode. And, thanks to composer Michael Shackelford for the soundtrack featured during the May 15, 2003 storm chase.

A special thanks to Anton Seimon from the team Twistex for the video from the May 15, 2003 storm chase.

Thank you to the Four Points by Sheraton Little Rock Midtown for supplying accommodations for guests of Arts & Letters, and thank you to Stickyz Rock 'N' Roll Chicken Shack for keeping music alive and well in Arkansas.

Generous funding for this episode was provided by the Arkansas Humanities Council and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

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