The Man Who Caught the Storm: The Life of Legendary Tornado Chaser Tim Samaras
(Simon & Schuster, $26)
“Almost anyone who has ever intentionally piloted a vehicle toward a thunderstorm knows about Tim Samaras,” said Alexandra Witze in The Dallas Morning News. For more than two decades, the Colorado engineer and autodidact went looking for tornadoes instead of hiding from them, and his three-year run as a star of Discovery’s reality-television series Storm Chasers made him a role model for countless adrenaline seekers. Samaras, though far more alert to his vocation’s dangers than many copycats are, was killed chasing a storm in 2013, and that tragedy has been covered extensively before. Still, Brantley Hargrove’s new book “finds fresh stories to tell,” offering a “detailed, nuanced” portrait of a man driven to risk his life to gather useful new knowledge.
“Samaras was nothing if not a go-getter,” said Ian Livingston in WashingtonPost.com. A tinkerer at a young age, he landed a job straight out of high school as an explosive-weapons tester. But storms became his passion, and he eventually developed a tool that allowed him to chart the steepest pressure drop ever recorded. Because Samaras lacked the educational pedigree of others in the field, he sought respect by taking risks that others wouldn’t. One early storm-chasing partner quit in 2003 after the pair barely escaped a Texas tornado. But Samaras kept going. Because Hargrove is “one of today’s great science writers,” the book convincingly captures the thrill of the chase.
Hargrove’s exciting storm scenes suggest that Samaras should have been more cautious, said Joseph Bien-Kahn in Outside. On the day he died, Samaras was working on a lightning research project in Oklahoma when he spotted a monster storm and started driving toward it in a small Chevy with his 24-year-old son and a third researcher. Finding a dead end where they’d expected a way to sidestep the tornado, the men were sucked up by the 200-mph winds and thrown a half-mile, killing them all. Should Samaras be blamed? Hargrove doesn’t. He simply offers a portrait of a man who was constantly curious, “but also, perhaps, too reckless or too hubristic.”