HOOD COUNTY (CBSDFW.COM) – As a storm chaser for the past 13 years, Jason McLaughlin of Bridgeport has seen up-close more than a hundred tornadoes.
He said of all the close calls, last Friday near El Reno, Oklahoma was by far his closest.
After documenting the tornado, McLaughlin found himself struck in traffic trying to leave the area.
With the tornado heading his way, he ditched his car and headed into a church for cover. He stayed inside the bathroom of the church for more than an hour as the storm past.
Meanwhile, less than a mile away three experienced storm chasers, Tim Samaras, his son Paul Samaras, and his chase partner Carl Young, were killed.
“He (Tim Samaras) was one of the safest guys I know,” said McLaughlin who was stunned to learn of the deaths.
Storm chaser Clint Perkins of Granbury said Samaras was well-known among storm chasers as an experienced and cautious scientist.
“I truly believe that if it was Tim was in the path of this something went wrong,” he said. “You have to think about your safety first because when you look around at this, this isn’t something you want to play with.”
Perkins and McLaughlin said while the deaths of these storm chasers has given them pause, neither have considered quitting.
“I think they would do it all over again if it meant that they would have to give their life to save thousands and thousands of lives,” said McLaughlin. “I think that most of us out there are thinking we are sacrificing our lives so you can get out the science and the warning that something out there is coming.”
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