Storm chaser dies in Minnesota car crash during extreme weather

A meteorologist was killed in a car crash caused by severe weather while chasing a storm in Minnesota Wednesday.

Martha Llanos Rodriguez, 30, of Mexico City, died when a semitrailer rear-ended a car she was riding in on Interstate 90 after Rodriguez’s vehicle stopped short to avoid downed power lines, authorities said.

Rodriguez and three other weather experts had been chasing a severe storm system that brought damaging winds, flooding, hail and reports of possible tornadoes to the southwestern part of the state, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

The victim, who wrote for the Spanish language outlet Meteored, had been chasing storms in Nebraska and Iowa before embarking on the fatal trip to Minnesota, according to her Twitter page.

Her death came after three other storm chasers had died in the Midwest over the last two weeks while tracking tornadoes, as severe weather pursuits like those depicted in the 1996 film “Twister” had been recently trending upward in the US, according to meteorologists and chasers.

“There is such a volume of chasers out there on some storms sometimes that it creates potential traffic and other hazards,” said Marshall Shepherd, director of the atmospheric sciences program at the University of Georgia.

Vehicle crash
Three meteorology students died in a separate crash.

“Seeing storms within their natural context has scientific and broader value so I am not anti-chasing, however, there are elements that have become a little wild, wild West-ish.”

Three University of Oklahoma students were killed on April 29 after driving to Kansas to chase a twister, police said.

Gavin Short, 19, of Illinois, was one of the victims.

“He loved it, and we were so happy for him,” his mother Beth Short told WMAQ-TV.

“And it just, this is just the worst nightmare for us and two other sets of parents.”

Greg Tripoli, an atmospheric and oceanic sciences professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison who taught a storm chasing class in the 90s, told his students that car accidents posed a greater threat than being struck by debris or lightning.

Still, for many the potential rewards outweighed the dangers, he said.

“Seeing a tornado is a life-changing experience,” Tripoli said.

“You want to see one instead of just talking about them. It’s really just one of the excitements of life. You’ve got to take chances and go out there and go after your passions.

“It’s no different from rock-climbing or deep-sea diving.”

With AP wires

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