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University of Oklahoma graduate chases storms in web series

Reed Timmer, a graduate of the University of Oklahoma in Norman, starred on Discovery Channel's ‘Storm Chasers' from 2007-2012
BY SANDI DAVIS Modified: February 25, 2013 at 3:07 pm •  Published: February 26, 2013
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“That town was cut off too, but we got a ride to Jackson, Mississippi, rented a car there and drove back to Norman,” he said. “I couldn't call anyone until we got to Jackson, and my mother had filed a missing persons report.”

The scientist also has an interest in the speed of the wind on the ground during tornadoes. There are ways to measure the wind inside a tornado, but it's harder to get an accurate read on what is happening on the ground when a tornado hits. It's one use for his Dominators with their spikes. He hopes to be able to measure just how high the wind speed is while it causes so much destruction.

Timmer and his team regularly stop during the aftermath of a storm to help with search and rescue and offer first aid.

In the 2010 Yazoo City, Miss., tornado, Timmer and his team found an injured man, Lee Woods.

“Amid all the destruction, we found a man who was badly hurt. We managed to get him out and took him to a place where he could be airlifted to a hospital. He had a broken back.”

Timmer kept track of Woods and arranged for the man's trailer park to get its own storm shelter.

“The last time they had a tornado warning, there were 16 people inside the shelter,” Timmer said. “They call me to find out what's happening outside.”

‘All I know is weather'

During his offseason he does some public speaking and works on his doctoral degree and this year he had an unexpected adventure during Superstorm Sandy.

“Superstorm Sandy had the weirdest weather,” he said. “A mid-latitude trough slammed into the storm surge of cold air.”

He and his team were in the Appalachians. What followed sounds like something out of a disaster movie.

“It was snowing heavily and there was continuous lightning and thunder. It felt like a hurricane with the heaviest snow you've ever seen. We were driving up in the mountains and we knew one false move and we would go over the side.

“We thought we were going to have to stop. I thought I was going to have to make snow caves for everyone. It was that bad.”

They managed to get out of the “snowicane” unharmed.

Timmer credits social media to the drop in storm-related injuries and deaths, and uses it himself to keep his fans informed about the weather around the country — except maybe in Oklahoma. Here, the local television stations have some of the best meteorologists in the world and people who live in the area are familiar with what to do in most weather conditions.

“One of the coolest things I've seen is here in Oklahoma. It's amazing to see three helicopters surrounding a tornado, knowing they are providing a live feed to the people in the area,” he said.

Timmer hopes to finish his studies soon and become Dr. Timmer.

The single man lives with his Yorkshire terrier Gizmo.

“All I know is weather,” he said. “Right now my goal is to finish this degree and get accurate readings of a tornado's wind speed on the ground. My ultimate goal is to get a three-dimensional X-ray of the inside of a tornado.”