You’ve probably heard by now that famed tornado chaser Tim Samaras, his son, and one other man died when they were trapped by a tornado in Oklahoma.
His team used small probes to try to help scientists figure out what’s going on inside a tornado. And he did, thanks in part to one of his most memorable encounters: a tornado in South Dakota, according to National Geographic.
In 2003, Samaras followed an F4 tornado that dropped from the sky on a sleepy road near Manchester, South Dakota. He deployed three probes in the tornado’s path, placing the last one from his car 100 yards ahead of the tornado itself.
“That’s the closest I’ve been to a violent tornado, and I have no desire to ever be that close again,” he said of that episode. “The rumble rattled the whole countryside, like a waterfall powered by a jet engine. Debris was flying overhead, telephone poles were snapped and flung 300 yards through the air, roads ripped from the ground, and the town of Manchester literally sucked into the clouds.”
“When I downloaded the probe’s data into my computer, it was astounding to see a barometric pressure drop of a hundred millibars at the tornado’s center,” he said, calling it the most memorable experience of his career. “That’s the biggest drop ever recorded-like stepping into an elevator and hurtling up 1,000 feet in ten seconds.”
And because of that, we know a lot more about what happens when a tornado hits than the fact it sounds like a train.
Here’s the moment: