Nearly 200 storm chasers paid tribute Sunday to the late actor Bill Paxton by spelling out his initials using GPS coordinates on a map depicting the heart of Tornado Alley.
The effort coordinated by Spotter Network spelled out "BP" to honor the leading man 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 someone who hasn't directly "made a significant contribution to the field," said John Wetter, president of the nonprofit that tracks the positions of tornado chasers and works with the National Weather Service to update weather forecasts.
"This is the first time we've gone way outside of that. 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 marketplace the meteorologist became cool, if only for a little while."
The storm chasers spelled the initials on a map that was centered around Wakita, Oklahoma, a real town in the heart of Tornado Alley that served as the set for almost all of the movie, Wetter said.
The National Weather Service joined Hollywood stars in honoring Paxton, whose four-decade Hollywood career included roles in "Aliens" and "Titanic."
"Twister was an inspiration to many budding meteorologists over the last 20 years. Thank you, Bill Paxton, a.k.a. Bill "The Extreme" Harding," the agency tweeted.
In the movie, Paxton plays a storm chaser who's researching tornados during a twister outbreak in Oklahoma. Paxton's death at age 61 was announced Sunday.