Hunting Killer Storms

As the tornadoes grew, most people tried to get away, but some tried to get closer. People who, because of scientific curiosity or pure excitement, go looking for trouble.

So-called storm chasers are a breed apart, reports CBS News Anchor Dan Rather.

Graduate students Marc Weinberg and Ryan Willis chased the Oklahoma tornadoes for miles.

"I really love storms," says Weinberg. "When a thunderstorm or a tornado is out in an open field and just spinning away and not hurting anything, it's just simply the most beautiful thing you can imagine."

But beauty can quickly turn deadly.

"When we pulled up on top of the hill and we could see it heading towards Moore, that's when the reality set in that people were going to die from this storm," says Willis.

Also driving into the storm were trucks outfitted with huge Doppler radar dishes. They're the brainchild of Joshua Wurman, a University of Oklahoma researcher.

"We make three-dimensional maps of the tornado structure," Wurman says. "You can see the red area, that's 200 mph winds moving away from us. The purple is winds moving toward us. "

Eventually, Wurman hopes to understand exactly what conditions produce tornadoes. "We compare the winds we are seeing to the damage that occurs," he says, "and try to understand what happens inside the center of a violent tornado."

Sirens helped many Oklahomans escape the tornadoes' fury. Wurman hopes to get the alerts out even faster.

"If we can just gain a few more minutes lead time in the warnings, maybe we could save more lives," he says. Because there's no stopping tornadoes, all you can do is get people out of the way.