In 1996 a certain disaster drama film made waves in cinemas alongside other big-budget blockbusters like “The Rock” and “Independence Day.” Instead of high-profile terrorism or a hostile alien invasion, this movie from Amblin and Warner Bros. entitled “Twister” dealt with the (dramatized) lives of “Storm Chasers” who followed violent and destructive tornados to report on their movements. One of its lead stars, Bill Paxton, has recently died, but his role in the film, where he portrays a meteorologist storm-chaser, has been well-received by actual members of the profession.

Since the initial showing of “Twister,” real-life storm chasers have credited it for introducing their profession to the mainstream and making it “cool.” And in the memory of the late Paxton, they endeavored to create a magnificent tribute through their weather-warning systems that have since gone viral on social media.

Initials on the map

After news broke out of Bill Paxton’s death, a number of meteorologists active in both Oklahoma and Kansas, wherein the infamous “tornado alley” is situated, decided to honor his memory using the same equipment they have on hand to track and monitor the twisters that his character pursued.

After conferring through social networks like Facebook, the participating storm-chasers under the direction of a major tracking group called Spotter Network activated various weather apps like RadarScope Pro, in order to mark their locations on GPS.

When viewed through the RadarScope digital map, the lighted sensors in and around the cities of Wichita, Topeka and Oklahoma City lit up to form the initials “BP,” standing for Paxton.

It was a large-scale undertaking of positioning storm-chasers in the area to spell out the letters Sunday, February 26. Spotter Network explained, “Many storm spotters and chasers have at least some connection to ‘Twister.' A few helped Bill Paxton to form into the character he was in the movie.

Many more took his character and either emulated him or took a different direction based on what they saw in the movie.” The GPS dots were made up of about 200 storm-chasers.

‘Twister’ effect

Spotter Network’s president John Wetter remarks how his community owes their numbers and wide activity to the popularity gained from “Twister” and Bill Paxton saying, "There isn't a storm chaser alive that couldn't tell you some story about the impact that the movie has had on them as a storm chaser." University of Georgia coordinator John Knox even spoke of the “Twister effect”, in which a large number of college students in the country took meteorology courses due to having seen the film.

So while Paxton’s sudden passing left no room in the Oscars to mention him in their “dead figures” tribute, the storm-chasers he inspired have got that covered.

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