Thursday, March 15, 2018

The Man Who Caught the Storm: The Life of Legendary Tornado Chaser Tim Samaras


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I received a free ARC via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review

Rating: 5 Stars

Let's just get this out of the way right now - this book is one of my few 5 Star reads of the year and it was fantastic. I could not put it down. I mean, I was forced to when I had to go to work and such, but the book was an awe-inspiring glimpse into the life of a man who KNEW tornadoes and that ultimately cost him his life.

I've lived in the Midwest my whole life, Minnesota and Nebraska. I have been very lucky to have never actually crossed paths with a tornado, but they are terrifying nonetheless, as well they should be. As much fun as it is to go out and chase, this book and the death of Tim Samaras shows that even for the professionals, that choice can have tragic consequences.

Tim Samaras can easily be classified as one of the giants of the meteorology field, something quite remarkable for someone who never went to college. He was a man obsessed, determined to uncover the secrets that tornadoes still hold, working without tiring to understand this most dangerous curse Mother Nature has to offer. Time and time again, scientists did their best to figure out the inner workings of these beasts, with no success. it was not until Samaras arrived on the scene with inventions and tools of his own making that would get man closer than ever before to the phenomenon. Samaras took risks that many others wouldn't, and it paid off as data poured in. But the fact that he constantly escaped death honestly may have lead to his belief that he would always be able to outrun the fury.

There is much to appreciate in this book. I am rather fascinated by tornadoes, and first 'met' Tim Samaras when watching Storm Chasers years ago. I knew him from this and various other documentaries and I remember clearly his enthusiasm for his subject that he never seemed to tire of. That commitment and passion is admirable, especially when one continued to accomplish the things he accomplished, yet he kept pushing the limits because there is still so much more to know. Seeing the non-weather side of Samaras, catching a glimpse of him at home, with his family, provided a more complete picture despite the main focus being on Tim and his tornadoes.

Another aspect I appreciated was the fact that I actually understood what the author was talking about when explaining the scientific 'stuff'. I know so many of the important 'tornado words', but understanding some of the complexities would have been more difficult had the author not explained things in an easy-to-comprehend way. I don't shy away from complex topics, but while I love science, we have never been great friends (kind of ironic when one of my best friends has papers published in Science Magazine. I dutifully read his work, understanding very little except the punctuation marks and walking away with the vague notion of 'lasers'. But I read them! Can't say I am not a dedicated and loyal friend.)

The author's narrative flowed well and I could picture what was going on as we moved from chase to chase to chase. it never got tired or boring, it was a fast-paced move, trying to keep up with Samaras as he pushed himself further and further. He had to know everything about this most stunning and destructive creation. I suspect that based on the work Samaras did, we will one day know all there is to know about tornadoes. Current and future storm chases can build on his work and go farther than anyone thought possible. What an amazing legacy.

2 comments:

  1. I liked him on Storm Chasers-he seemed like a nice guy who wanted to use science to save lives. I was shocked when I heard about his death doing what he loved. I might well take a look at this book.

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    1. Agreed, it was such a shock. He never seemed like he was in it for the fame, he had a gift and wanted to use it to help others. The field has advanced so far because of him. It is a must-read for you if you followed him during his career, such a well-written book.

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