It’s shortly after six in the evening on May 31, 2013. Sitting in the passenger seat of the white Chevrolet Cobalt, the 55-year-old, bookishly handsome storm chaser momentarily gapes at the video camera that the driver of the car is pointing at his face. Then he looks back through the window at the outskirts of El Reno, Oklahoma. The wheat fields are eerily aglow and shudder from a vicious wind. No more than two miles away from the car, twin funnel clouds spiral downward from an immensity of blackness. What we hear in the man’s voice on the videotape is not quite terror. Nor, however, do his words sound clinically factual, in the manner of the scientist he happens to be.
“Oh, my God. This is gonna be a huge one,” he says.
The man frowns. He strokes his chin with almost comical vigor. His name is Tim Samaras, and much of his adult life has been spent in the dangerous company of tornadoes. He’s obsessed with them, to be honest—to the point where his wife, Kathy, would wryly note that her husband “had an affair with Mother Nature.”