A spurt of tornado activity expected to hit the South in coming days has already claimed its first victims — three storm chasers, including an Arizona man, who were killed when their vehicles collided at a rural crossroads during severe West Texas storms on Tuesday.
There was a confirmed tornado reported about the time of the mid-afternoon fatal crash, according to Texas authorities.
The Texas Department of Public Safety Sgt. John Gonzalez said Kelley Williamson, 57, and Randy Yarnall, 55, both of Cassville, Mo., were in a black Chevrolet Suburban traveling north and collided with a westbound jeep. The jeep’s driver was identified as 25-year-old Corbin Lee Jaeger, who lived in Peoria. All three were killed instantly, Gonzalez said.
The Suburban driven by Williamson ran a stop sign and slammed into the Jeep, Gonzalez said.
Earlier Tuesday, Jaeger had posted an update on Twitter stating he was “doing a reassessment” of the day’s chase plans in Texas. The update was posted on the MadWX storm chasing Twitter profile he shared with two other local storm chasers.
Williamson and Yarnall were contract workers for The Weather Channel, according to a network statement.
“This afternoon we learned that three people died in a car accident in Texas, including two contractors for the Weather Channel, Kelley Williamson and Randy Yarnall,” the Weather Channel wrote in a statement posted on its website. “Kelley and Randy were beloved members of the weather community. We are saddened by this loss and our deepest sympathies go out to the families and loved ones of all involved.”
The crash happened at a remote intersection near the town of Spur, about 55 miles southeast of Lubbock. Funnel clouds were in the area at the time and heavy rain was reported, according to the National Weather Service.
The storms spawned high winds, driving rain and occasional tornadoes in open areas of West Texas. On Wednesday, the threat shifts eastward, and forecasters say about 19 million people in Arkansas, Texas and Louisiana could see stormy weather, including the possibility of strong tornadoes.
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