Local meteorologist mourns friend's tornado death

FRESNO, Calif.

Local storm chaser and meteorologist Steve Johnson was a good friend of one of the victims. Johnson has contributed video and weather information to Action News over the years.

The life of a storm chaser is one filled with flying metal and other debris. But the death of veteran chaser Tim Samaras, his 24-year old son Paul and colleague Carl Young has stung the community.

Johnson has known Samaras for 18 years. He said, "Quite frankly yesterday I felt like hanging up my keys. If Tim could be killed then that means I could be killed when I'm doing it."

When severe weather hits the valley Steve hits the road. In 2006 he recorded video a roof being torn off in Chowchilla. He has also captured video of funnel clouds for Action News over the years.

Steve called Samaras a brilliant man who made instruments which measured wind field at ground level. "He built probes that they put in the pathway of a tornado which measure wind velocity, pressure drops."

In a close-knit community of storm chasers Samaras stood out for his knowledge and attention to detail. Johnson explained, "He was one of the most known people in the entire world on tornados and he preached and advocated safety to fellow chases constantly."

It's not known exactly what happened on Friday but Tim's car was flattened and ripped apart by the tornado. Experts say the tornado may have suddenly changed directions.

Steve Johnson is such an avid storm chaser he vacations in Oklahoma every year during tornado season to chase twisters.

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