Close call: One storm chaser's story
Friday's storm was particularly unpredictable, according to Mike Bettes, an anchor and meteorologist for The Weather Channel who had a close call himself. The tornado swept up the tornado-hunt truck he and a crew were traveling in, tossed it 200 yards into a field and smashed it to the ground.
"I think this was just an erratic tornado. I think the size of it and the speed of it changed very, very quickly," he told CNN on Sunday morning. "I think the direction of movement changed quickly. And I think there were a lot of people out there that, you know, ended up getting stuck in positions we didn't want to be in."
Bettes described the experience as the scariest moment of his life.
"I saw people in my life, I saw their faces flash right in front of me. And it just seemed for a moment, everything was in slow motion, especially when we were floating," he said. "I kind of felt like I was being lifted to heaven or something. I was conscious through the whole thing and remember the whole thing, but it's still a surreal moment."
Bettes and several others emerged with scratches and bruises. One crew member had broken bones, he said, but was in good spirits.
The experience left him rattled and unsure whether he'll go out to chase storms again. But Bettes said he had no doubt about the value of storm chasing.
"We show weather, and we like to be out there and show people what these things can do, and help give advance warning. A lot of times the storm spotters out there serve a very valuable purpose. They give ground truth to what meteorologists from the National Weather Service are doing," he said. "But seeing it in person, seeing it for real, and giving that real time information, I think really supplements the warning. It helps people take shelter ahead of time."
"Storm Chasers" aired for five years on the Discovery Channel. The last season ended in the fall of 2011. The network expressed condolences in a statement Sunday.
"We are deeply saddened by the loss of Carl Young, Tim Samaras and his son. Our thoughts and prayers go out to their families," the statement said.
Powerful storms leave trail of damage, death
The latest round of storms to hit the heartland left a fresh trail of damage and destruction in its wake as tornadoes struck and floodwaters surged.
Tornadoes tore through the Oklahoma City and St. Louis areas Friday, ripping up homes and sending thousands scrambling for cover.
On Saturday morning, a spokeswoman for the state's chief medical examiner's office said two children and seven adults were killed in the Oklahoma storms.
On Sunday, Oklahoma City Fire Chief Keith Bryant said searchers had found the bodies of four additional victims that died in the storm -- two adults and two children who died while seeking shelter in a storm drain. Deputy Fire Chief Marc Woodard said the body of another child had been recovered Sunday afternoon, and the search for six other people unaccounted for will continue Monday.
The flash flooding that accompanied Friday night's storm swept the bodies up to four to five miles downstream, Woodard said.
The impact of the severe weather extended beyond Oklahoma.
In Missouri, a tornado left a path of "over 10 miles of significant damage ... that caused dozens and dozens of houses to be literally blown up," Gov. Jay Nixon told CNN affiliate KSDK on Saturday.
No one was killed in that tornado, but three people drowned in the state, Nixon said.
In Arkansas, flooding claimed the lives of at least four people -- a sheriff's deputy, a wildlife officer and two women they were trying to save from a home deluged by floodwaters, officials said. The house collapsed in the middle of the rescue attempt, Arkansas Game and Fish Commission spokesman Keith Stephens said.