R.I.P., storm chasers

LAST UPDATED 9 JANUARY 2024 (added Josh Holcomb and alphabetized the entries)

Original text: I have been combing through some back issues of Stormtrack and thought I'd assemble this list of dedicated chasers and storm enthusiasts who have passed on.

CORY BARNETT (July 9, 1984 - March 28, 2021) - Cory was born in Aledo, IL and had a wife and two children. He was a local chaser to the west-central Illinois region. Cory joined the Army National Guard in 2001 and served in Iraq from 2004 – 2005 and Egypt from 2010 – 2011. He died of an unexpected illness in his hometown.

MATTHEW BIDDLE (BD unknown - April 10, 2018) - Matt died in April 2018 after a battle with long-term health problems. He was a prominent figure in storm chasing in the 1990s era and beyond. He participated in the VORTEX research project, and worked as a consultant for the movie "Twister". His distinctive El Camino chase vehicle was a fixture on the Plains in the 90s.

BEVERLY BISHOP (Oct 31 1949 - 24 May 1998) - Beverly chased with Steve Tabb and Carson Eads during the mid 1990s. She passed away from cancer on the same day as the big tornado outbreak near Enid OK.

Former Stormtrack owner
(GARY) MARK BLUE (1961 - Sep 9 2023) - Gary "Mark" Blue was born in Kearney, NE and attended John Brown University in Siloam Springs, AR before graduating with a BS in Climatology from the Univ. of Nebraska - Lincoln in 1984. While in Lincoln, he was introduced to Jane on a blind date. The two clicked immediately and married in July 1986, and were married for 37 years until his death. In 1988 the couple moved to Colorado. Mark worked in the financial sector - working for Janus Capitol Group, first as a lowly check processor, but eventually working up to project manager - while also indulging in a passion for following severe weather, which he used to start a chasing career in the 1990s. He often took his wife along on chases across the high plains, and the two shared many memories of chases together, including, e.g., the monster EF4 wedge tornado that skirted Bowdle, SD on 10 May 2010. Mark also worked for the VA in a call center and made numerous connections outside of his professional career during this time. An accident that resulted in a serious back injury in his early years forced Mark to retire early and enter into disability. In fact, many were unaware that Mark lived with nearly continuous back pain for most of his adult life. But that didn't stop him from enjoying life, pursuing a passion for chasing severe weather as well as serving the Colorado Community Church, where he served as an usher for many years. Mark participated in the Stormtrack community and forum, eventually becoming the owner, taking over from previous owner Steve Miller in 2018. Mark continued to lead the Stormtrack forum until his death from neck and throat cancer which developed sometime in 2021 or 2022. Mark also enjoyed many other hobbies outside of work and storm chasing, including video games and technology. He was celebrated by family and friends as being a gentle, non-judgmental, intelligent person who also had a quick sense of humor.

DRAKE BROOKS (BD uknown - 29 April 2022, aged 22) - Drake, an undergrad meteorology major from the University of Oklahoma, perished in a vehicle accident with two other OU students - Gavin Short and Nic Nair. Nic, Gavin, and Drake were driving southbound in rainy/wet conditions on I-35 in northern Oklahoma following a successful storm chase in Kansas when their vehicle hydroplaned, lost control, and hit a barrier, ultimately ending up disabled back on the roadway. They were subsequently hit by a semi-truck and pinned. Drake was from Evansville, IN.

JOHNELLE KANANI DANNER (Sep 10 1979 - Jul 7 2021) - Kanani lived in Amarillo and was a chaser for KAMR. She loved to chase, having seen over 100 tornadoes in her career. She also worked at the Clements Unit, and was heavily involved with Special Olympics and other advocacy groups.

THOMAS FAVA (May 28 1961 - Jun 7 1990) - Tom Fava of Harrison NY was an avid Stormtrack subscriber, according to his brother John. He was an avid collector of tornado books and articles, and had expressed concern over tornadoes striking large venues such as the Kentucky Derby and the Indy 500. He passed away at the young age of 29 from a heart condition.

ERIC FLESCHER (Apr 9 1951 - Mar 2 2010) - Eric has been described as a "Renaissance man with a broad variety of interests ranging from severe weather, to astronomy, to carnivorous plants, to cooking, and more". He was a teacher and worked as a consultant for Project IMAGE and SPICA at Harvard University, NASA, Smithsonian, Annenburg PBS Foundation and Newton’s Apple, and was in regular attendence at chase conventions. He fell into a coma caused by meningitis in December 2009. A large thread of support and tribute for Eric can be found here.

TETSUYA "THEODORE" FUJITA (23 Oct 1920 - Nov 19 1998) - A man who needs no introduction, he was a key part of the University of Chicago meteorological community and developed an understanding of tornado lifecycle and damage intensity. He was an incredible researcher at heart, and his personal memoirs contain fascinating graphs of subjects such as his family finances and his health condition. Ted passed away in his sleep, interestingly in the same year and the same age as Col. Miller.

ANDY GABRIELSON (Feb 19 1987 - Feb 4 2012) - Andy was among several chasers who accompanied Mike Bettes and crew on The Weather Channel's Tornado Hunt. He was well known for making spotter reports the highest priority while chasing. On his way home from a storm chase in Texas, Gabrielson was involved in a head-on collision with a wrong-way driver on I-44 in Sapulpa, Oklahoma, near Tulsa.

FABIAN GUERRA (Dec 6 1967 - Jun 6 2009) - Fabian was known in the Chicago music scene where he worked as a manager, booking agent, mentor, and a performer. Fabian found an interest in severe weather. He was killed in a traffic accident in Iowa when he swerved to avoid a deer and struck an oncoming tractor-trailer. He was enroute to meet with chasers Darrin Rasberry and Craig Maire. A thread for him is located here and he has a Blogspot tribute page.

RICHARD HENDERSON (June 6 1977 - May 31 2013) - Henderson, a truck driver and rancher who was a lifelong resident of central Oklahoma, died in the El Reno tornado on May 31, 2013 after going out in his pickup truck to see and photograph the storm near his home.

PHIL HENRY (BY unknown - 2015) - Phil deployed the first TIV, a GMC Typhoon with extensive communications and safety modifications including a full roll cage and protective barriers. He was also an electrical engineer who often tested equipment while chasing.

JOSHUA "JOSH" B. HOLCOMB (Oct 5 1994 - Dec 30 2023) - Josh was born in Altus, Oklahoma. He was the son of Kent Holcomb and Jessie McCarty Dickerson. Josh was a 2013 graduate of Northside High School. He loved spending time with his pride and joy, Paisleigh. He enjoyed fishing, hunting, photography, gaming, and storm chasing. He was a member of the Lone Star Storm Chasers and Western Trail Cowboy Church. Josh struggled with mental health complications compounded by brain damage resulting from a car wreck years ago and numerous falls due to seizures, and passed away in Nocona, TX.

MATT HUGHES (Jul 31 1979 - May 26 2010) - Matt was a prominent celebrity on Discovery's 'Storm Chasers' series. Matt was responsible for placing co-star Sean Case's Tornado Intercept Vehicle close to tornadoes to capture IMAX footage of storms. A police report indicated he Matt had reportedly battled depression, and a police report indicated he been drinking and attempted to hang himself, and he succumbed to the injuries 13 days later.

CORBIN JAEGER (1992 - March 28, 2017) - Corbin was a young chaser from Peoria, Arizona who grew up in Aurora, Colorado. He was killed in a two-vehicle accident in Spur, Texas when, during a storm chase on March 28, 2017, his Jeep was struck by another chaser vehicle that ran a stop sign. Jaeger was a well-known member of the Arizona chaser community and was a member of the MadWx group as well as a regular at MonsoonCon.

ROGER JENSEN (Sep 5 1933 - Apr 26 2001) - Roger Jensen is perhaps the father of storm chasing. He began chasing in the 1950s near his family farm in western Minnesota. His "big day" came on June 28, 1975 with a mile-wide tornado near Felton MN, and he continued to photograph storms from his nursing home at Terrell TX. His photos can be viewed at our Roger Jensen page.

LINDA KITCHEN (BD unknown - March 22, 2014) - Linda passed away at the age of 61 on March 22, 2014 from lung cancer. She was one of the original Twister Sisters. Her obituary is here.

JIM LEONARD
(February 17, 1950 ‒ November 3, 2014) - Jim was a pioneering chaser of hurricanes, tornadoes, supercells and waterspouts. He produced some of the first truly impressive firsthand video from hurricanes and typhoons from both major world oceans.

GEORGE MILLARD (1924 - May 1 1995) - George was a Nova Scotia resident who made it to the 1990 - 1994 seasons on the Plains. He corresponded frequently with Antonio Caridade of Japan and chased with him in 1990.

AL MOLLER (February 1, 1950 – June 19, 2014) - Al was an early scientific chaser and noted photographer who had a distinguished career as an NWS forecaster.

NIC NAIR (BD uknown - 29 April 2022, aged 20) - Nic, an undergrad meteorology major from the University of Oklahoma, perished in a vehicle accident with two other OU students - Gavin Short and Drake Brooks. See entry for Drake Brooks on details of Nic's death. Nic contributed to the university newscast, OU Nightly. He was from Denton, TX.

ERIC NGUYEN (Jan 2 1978 - Sep 9 2007) - Eric was a brilliant meteorologist and storm photographer from the Dallas-Fort Worth area. He was a favorite of stock photo agency Corbis International, which called his Mulvane, Kansas tornado shot "the greatest tornado photo of all time". Eric had suffered severe negative reactions to anti-depressant medication and he died in Arlington, TX from complications from an attempted suicide.

JEFFREY PASSNER (1959? - Apr 19 2022) - Jeff died unexpectedly at home. He was a meteorology graduate of Oneonta University (BA) and the University of Oklahoma (MS). Jeff had a career that spanned media (WKY), consulting (Metracom in OKC), and range forecasting at White Sands Missile Range, including 30+ years as a researcher/mesoscale modeler for the U.S. Army Atmospheric Sciences Lab (now Army Research Lab), publishing papers and supporting soldiers. He was a long-time storm chaser, having seen over 100 tornadoes. (obit)

CHRISTOPHER PHILLIPS (1963 - Apr 26 1984) - In the first "in the field" chaser death, Phillips was a 21-year old OU meteorology student from Englewood NJ who died when he swerved to avoid a rabbit and his car rolled over into a ditch in Logan County OK. He was accompanied by Laura Rustin and Matt Marshall, who suffered minor injuries. The storms on April 26 killed 10 and injured hundreds along a swath from Guthrie into northeast Oklahoma.

RANDALL C. RAMZY (Sep 24 1958 - Apr 16 2000) - Randy's severe weather interest began in Ohio began suffering from leukemia in 1998 but clung to his interest in severe weather, aided by a legion of Norman area chasers including most of all R.J. Evans and Vince Miller, who gave him a Skywarn training session at the hospital. Randy succumbed at the age of 41.

MARTHA L. RODRIGUEZ (BD unknown - May 11, 2022, aged 30) - Martha was a meteorologist from Mexico City. She was killed in a multi-vehicle accident on I-90 near Worthington, MN during a storm chase. She was with a team of four chasers who had stopped their vehicle to avoid downed power lines when they were struck by a tractor-trailer. Two of the other passengers in the vehicle, Chilean meteorologists, were not seriously injured. The fourth - Bradford Barrett, a Program Officer with the Air Force Office of Scientific Research - was seriously injured and rendered quadriplegic from the accident.

ALEX SAHLBERG (Aug 22 1986 - Apr 13 2005) - Alex was not very well known as he was new to storm chasing, but at a young age he served as a freelance severe weather photojournalist for several years and was quite active in the Duluth, MN area. He passed away from complications from pneumonia. A memorial thread may be found here.

TIM SAMARAS (Nov 12 1957 - May 31 2013) - Tim Samaras was well known for his design of instruments used to gather storm data from the core of tornadoes. He was founder of a field research team called Tactical Weather Instrumented Sampling in Tornadoes EXperiment (TWISTEX). Tim died while chasing the May 2013 El Reno tornado alongside Paul Samaras and Carl Young. Tim has a prominent Wikipedia page here.

PAUL SAMARAS (Nov 12 1988 - May 31 2013) - Paul was a graduate of Alameda High in 2007. He earned a certificate in animation from Animation Mentor and worked as a photographer and videographer for Twistex. He died alongside his father and Carl Young in the May 2013 El Reno tornado.

JIM "MAD DOG" SELLARS (March 3rd 1954 - May 22, 2018) - Jim was a longtime chaser, storm spotter and lifelong Springfield, Missouri resident. Per his wishes, there are plans to lunch his ashes into a supercell. As of January 2024, it is unknown if this has occurred.

GAVIN SHORT (BD uknown - 29 April 2022, aged 19) - Gavin, an undergrad meteorology major from the University of Oklahoma, perished in a vehicle accident with two other OU students - Nic Nair and Drake Brooks. Gavin was from Grayslake, IL. See the entry for Drake Brooks for details on Gavin's death.

JONATHAN SKINNER (BD unknown - January 12, 2014) - Jonathan Skinner was a dedicated chaser despite a long struggle with cystic fibrosis. The disease took his life at age 30 in 2014. He was well known in the Colorado chaser community. After his death, friends launched his ashes via rocket into the inflow of a supercell in western Nebraska on May 15, 2015, per his wishes.

CHRIS SNIDER (1984 - 2013) - Chris had an atmospheric science degree from Central Michigan University and was a broadcast meteorologist and storm chaser who died on February 22, 2013 in Duluth MN of osteosarcoma complications. He was 29.

MICHAEL STANGA (April 29 1987 - February 4 2021) - Michael founded the Minnesota Storm Chaser Conference and St. Cloud State Storm Chasing Club and was an active chaser across the central plains for about a decade as well as participated in CoCoRaHS. He was an active proponent of Skywarn and donated video for spotter trainings. He battled brain cancer for 7 years before it finally took his life.

HERB STEIN (BD unknown - Feb 2016, aged 56) - Herb was a well-liked severe storms research scientist best known for driving DOWs with CSWR, working with Josh Wurman on VORTEX I and II, ROTATE, OCS, and other projects.

SUSAN STROM (c. 1966 - Aug 9 2013) - Susan was well-known for her photography of the monsoon storms of Arizona, and regularly attended chaser conventions. She passed away at a young age from a rare form of ovarian cancer, and it was said she never complained even after a long battle. Her website lives on at this link.

JOEL TAYLOR (1980 - January 23, 2018, aged 38) - Joel was an Oklahoma native known as long-time chase partner and friend of fellow chaser Reed Timmer. Joel was one of the stars of the Discovery "Storm Chasers" television show. Taylor died from an overdose while on a cruise ship in January 2018.

LEVI WARD (2002 - Apr 16 2022) - Levi was among two killed in a hit-and-run accident in Wichita, KS. He was a storm chaser and a First Alert Storm Tracker with KAKE in Wichita. Fortunately, the person responsible was apprehended and charged shortly after.

NEIL B. WARD (Jun 26 1914 - Apr 12 1972) - Neil is considered to be one of the godfathers of chasing. He began chasing in the 1950s and eventually orchestrated cooperation between the state police and weather services. This helped correlate the hook echo with tornado activity. Coincidentally the the OU TIP (Tornado Intercept Project) began on the day of his funeral, April 14, 1972; a dryline passed during the ceremony.

JEFFREY A. WEAR (Dec 9 1977 - Jul 11 2005) - Jeff, of course, was an avid participant in our Stormtrack board and was our very first non-staff registrant on our forum in 2003. He lost control of his car on rain-slicked roads near Kilgore TX while returning from a chase to intercept Hurricane Dennis. His website lives on at theperksofchasing.com.

KELLEY WILLIAMSON (1959 - March 28, 2017) - Kelley was a chaser from Cassville, Missouri best known as co-star of the Weather Channel television show "Storm Wranglers". Williamson died in a two-vehicle accident in Spur, Texas when, during a storm chase on March 28, 2017, their vehicle ran a stop sign and collided broadside with a vehicle driven by Corbin Jaeger. Williamson, chase partner/co-star/vehicle driver Yarnall, and Corbin Jaeger all died in the accident.

RANDALL YARNALL (1961 - March 28, 2017) - Randall was a chaser from Cassville, Missouri best known as co-star of the Weather Channel television show "Storm Wranglers". Yarnall died in a two-vehicle accident in Spur, Texas when, during a storm chase on March 28, 2017, their vehicle ran a stop sign and collided broadside with a vehicle driven by Corbin Jaeger. Yarnall, chase partner/co-star/vehicle passenger Kelley Williamson, and Corbin Jaeger all died in the accident.

CARL YOUNG (May 14 1968 - May 31 2013) - Carl was a longtime severe weather enthusiast, and worked with Tim Samaras (Colorado researcher of TWISTEX) for National Geographic and the Discovery Channel (Storm Chasers) for over 11 years. He died in May 2013 while chasing the El Reno tornado with Tim and Paul Samaras.
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The following are not storm chasers, but were in an incident involving a chaser:

DAVID & MILDRED FRANK (July 12, 2015) - The Franks were residents and owners of a greenhouse in Pennock, Minnesota. They were killed when a storm chaser ran a stop sign near the town and collided with their vehicle. The chaser was criminally charged, and later received a 90-day suspended jail sentence and one year probation. In a civil court case, he was ordered to pay $100,000 to the victims' family.

Tim V/Dan R/Jeff D
 
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A very thoughful thread Tim :)

For me, Ted Fujita, was probably the most influences on storm chasing, as it was reading up on some of his research and witnessing some archive footage of his model vortex machine, that got me into creating a vortex machine also, but in my case, I built mine where I used a hand held fan, that allowed me to make the tornado mobile withing a small area of where my experiments were done :), as well as creating and studying mutliple vortex tornadoes :)

So many great pioneers of severe weather research and they may be gone, but they're most definitely not forgotten, and their legacy is carried on in each of us, that continues that on the jounrye to understand the conditions that we seek :)

Thank you Tim for putting up such a nice thread :)

Willie
 
Nice thread.

To me Neil Ward, Roger Jensen and Dave Hoadley will always be the fathers of storm chasing and have been an influence to me and many others. These guys started chasing in the 1950’s when very little was understood about thunderstorms and tornadoes; they were doing something that was unheard of at the time and they did so without any of the technology that we have today. I couldn’t begin to imagine what storm chasing in the 1950’s was like, Neil and Roger did and Dave Hoadley does know.

If you look in the storm track library there are still articles in there written about the mentioned, definitely worth reading. I remember first reading those years and years ago, I still love reading the articles to this day.

Dave Hoadley: The Chase Fever, The Early Years
http://www.stormtrack.org/library/people/hoadley.htm

Storm Pioneer: A Biography of Neil B. Ward
http://www.stormtrack.org/library/people/ward.htm

Roger Jensen & His Photography (already mentioned in Tim's post)
http://www.stormtrack.com/jensen

Articles on the life of Dr. Ted Fujita
http://www.stormtrack.org/library/people/fujita.htm

Does Dave Hoadley still chase?
I know he use to do the cartoons for Storm Track, but other than that don't hear much about him.[FONT=&quot]
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I read that Fujita's first, last, and only tornado sighting was in Colorado in 1982. He was actually doing some field research on downbursts at the time, so I wouldn't call it a recreational chase - unless there was some other chase you were referring to.
 
I have updated the list of departed storm chasers at the start of this thread. It's sad to see it growing to a point where alphabetizing was something I considered. For now I'm keeping it in chronological order. One of my goals is to get each name linked to each person's memorial thread. I've done that for many of the names shown here, but haven't quite gotten all of them.

By the way, does anyone know Susan Strom's birthdate? For some reason this has been impossible to find. It's no big deal, but it would make the list complete. About all I know about that is she was born in Walnut Creek, California and lived in Fair Oaks up until the mid-90s.
 
It's worth noting that, until May 31, 2013, no name on Tim V's list had "tornado" as the cause of death. Traffic accidents, both chase and non-chase-related, appear to be the biggest killer of storm chasers. Not altogether surprising, unfortunately.
 
It's worth noting that, until May 31, 2013, no name on Tim V's list had "tornado" as the cause of death. Traffic accidents, both chase and non-chase-related, appear to be the biggest killer of storm chasers. Not altogether surprising, unfortunately.


Not altogether unsurprising though considering all the close calls chasers have had over the years it just figures that it would have taken an unpredictable monster like the El Reno storm to be the first to claim chasers' lives. I'm almost of the opinion that, while storm-related chaser deaths are incredibly upsetting (and I expect this statement will upset some folk), we almost needed it to happen...
 
Jim Leonard has to be considered as one of the top ten chasers of all time. Like many of us, he chased in the days long before social media and Internet data. Like Dave Hoadley, Tim Marshall, Gene Moore and many more, they were chasing for 100 enjoyment, something that often gets lost now days as too many chasers try to stroke egos on social media. Jim even moved to Guam just to chase tropical weather. That is devotion! I'm glad I got to meet him in the Plains and along the coast several times. Storm Chaser Jim Leonard - Hurricane Typhoon Stock Video and Photos
 
Thanks to those who have provided information and obituaries on the recently-passed. It is a somber activity to have to update that list, but if adding them to this thread helps to honor their memory, then it's the least we can do here at Stormtrack.

Regarding Jim Sellars - his obit is incomplete. Does anyone know if his remains were taken care of as indicated?
 
I have updated this list with the most updated information I could find. I have removed most of the posts in this thread that covered details and links to the people on this list, which have now been included in the obituaries.

I will generally elect to keep this thread fairly clean and will remove posts mentioning a new death after the details have been incorporated into the main obituary list. Praising or discussing the specific passage of someone in this list will be accepted, so long as discussion remains respectfully curious, deferential, and in good faith.
 
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