Storm Chasers Honour Bill Paxton With GPS Tribute

Around 200 storm chasers from around the globe paid tribute to the late actor Bill Paxton by spelling out his initials using GPS co-ordinates on a map Sunday after news broke that he had died following complications from heart surgery. He was 61.

The effort co-ordinated by Spotter Network spelled out “BP” to honour Paxton, who played storm chaser and researcher Bill Harding in the disaster movie “Twister,” which inspired a generation of storm chasers.

Storm chasers and storm spotters have spelled out the initials of fellow chasers in the tight-knit community four or five times before, but never for a non-chaser, said John Wetter, president of the non-profit that tracks the positions of tornado chasers and works with the National Weather Service to update weather forecasts.

READ MORE: Bill Paxton dies suddenly after complications with surgery

“There are probably hundreds, if not thousands, of meteorologists today — myself included — who were impacted by the movie ‘Twister’ and the role Bill played in that,” Wetter told The Associated Press in a phone interview. “’Twister’ was kind of the first time in a mass media place the meteorologist became cool, if only for a little while.”

The storm chasers spelled the initials on a map that was centred on Wakita, Okla., a real town in the heart of Tornado Alley that served as the set for almost all of the movie, Wetter said.

Jake DeFlitch was one of the few storm chasers who drove to a point on the map to register his GPS dot. Then he travelled about 20 minutes, he said, and then waited for the right moment to log his contribution.

“I waited until all the letters lined up,” said DeFlitch. “I was part of the ‘P,’ right below one of the connections, where the half-circle came back and connected with the straight line.”

Paxton starred in the 1996 classic “Twister” in which he and Helen Hunt led a team of scientists on a dangerous mission to gather information about the deadly cyclones.

The movie became the second-highest-grossing movie of 1996 worldwide, behind “Independence Day.”

Paxton went on to make the documentary, “Tornado Alley,” which he narrated. It was released in 2011.

READ MORE: Bob Harper, fitness trainer and ‘Biggest Loser’ host, suffers heart attack

The GPS image began to circulate on social media as co-ordinates began to connect.

Paxton’s extensive career included films such as “Aliens” and “Titanic.”

He is survived by his wife of more than 30 years, Louise Newbury, and two children, James and Lydia.

— With files from The Associated Presss

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