Evansville native Drake Brooks’ love of the weather took him to Oklahoma


EVANSVILLE, Ind. – Drake Brooks was a guy who became obsessed with his hobbies. He had a passion for music and games, but it was the weather that his parents, Doug and Tammy Brooks, felt God had put him on Earth to do.

Brooks, 22, a native of Evansville, died in a fatal car crash April 29 on Interstate 35 near the Oklahoma-Kansas border along with two fellow University of Oklahoma meteorology students, Nicholas Nair and Gavin Short.

The three were returning to campus after an evening spent chasing a tornado in Kansas, a night Tammy said Drake told her she was the ‘best of her life’ after getting to see a tornado in person for the first time. time.

Drake’s love of the weather began when he was 4 years old. His family huddled in their basement during a tornado warning, and Drake wasn’t having a good time.

“Tammy was trying to comfort him because he was really freaking out,” Doug said. “She’s trying to explain to him that just because we’re in a warning doesn’t mean it’s going to hit us.”

She pulled out a book, a 1970s encyclopedia, opened it to the tornado section and told him to start reading, and Drake did.

“He started reading and learning and that passion (for the weather) started growing and the fear went away,” Doug said.

#RIPOU3:Community remembers three Oklahoma meteorology students killed in car crash after storm

As a teenager, unlike other kids his age who spent their allowance on mobile games, he bought advanced apps on his phone that could forecast or display 3D maps of weather patterns. With his family living across the country, Drake wanted to be able to warn them of bad weather heading their way.

Doug said that meant Drake would be constantly up until 4 a.m. warning people of the weather.

“He always wanted to help people,” Doug said.

Although Drake was adamant that he wanted to pursue a career in meteorology, his parents said he fluctuated on exactly what he wanted to do. He loved broadcasting and had even practiced in front of green screen at WFIE as a kid.

He also enjoyed radio and worked as a jockey at EVSC’s high school radio station, WPSR. His on-air name at the radio station was “Dr. Ake”, a play on his name and tag as an XBOX gamer.

Tammy said he also liked the idea of ​​doing radio because of his love for music, which Drake did not discriminate against. He loved his father’s favorite bands – the Sex Pistols and The Clash – and his mother’s favorites, like Peter Gabriel, David Bowie and Gary Numan.

“He was mad at us because he walked out (in college) and we went to see Gary Numan in Nashville,” Tammy said. “He was like, ‘Man, I’ll never forgive you guys for seeing it without me.'”

Drake attended the Southern Indiana Career & Technical Center for two years in high school, where he practiced weather broadcasting. His instructor, Kenton McDonald, said Brooks constantly talked about wanting to make a career out of watching the weather.

“I had a lot of students come to class and you’d ask them what they wanted to do after high school, (and their) plans would change,” McDonald said. “Drake, in his freshman year, said he was going to (Oklahoma) to study meteorology. And he did – he knew exactly what he wanted to be when he was a teenager and he was living that dream.”

Oklahoma was Drake’s dream school, Tammy said. Not just because there were a lot of tornadoes there, but because the idea of ​​taking classes at the National Weather Center at the university was incredibly cool.

Even in school, Drake went back and forth about what he wanted to do in meteorology. Weather research and working in a National Weather Service office sounded great, but so did broadcasting storm chasing.

His interests always came down to wanting to help people.

“I remember him asking (WEHT’s long-time chief meteorologist) Wayne Hart, ‘How did you manage to stay so calm during the storm and get the word out (to people)?'” A said Doug “It was important to him.”

Drake also wanted to pursue a minor in Geographic Information Mapping (GIS), which weather services use to track and map storms and other weather events across the United States. His passion for card making comes from his love for playing in Halo’s “forge” video game. “, which allows players to create custom maps using in-game resources.

“He loved creating real things in Halo,” Tammy said. “He made our house and (showed it to me) with the road and everything, and it looked like where we lived.”

Drake Brooks wears the Master Chief helmet from Halo

His passion for the game began at a young age, when he watched Doug and his friends throw LAN parties and compete all night long while playing Halo 2. Drake fell in love with it and, as he did with his other interests, plunged head first.

Doug said he befriended streamers and went to Halo conventions. He met the game developers and knew all the names of the voice actors. Drake even went to dinner one night with one of his streamer friends, “Ducaine23”, and a few Halo developers.

“He never met a stranger who didn’t end up loving him,” Doug said.

Ducaine sent out a remembrance tweet on Sunday in the wake of Drake’s death. It was just an outpouring of love for Drake, Nair and Short and support for their families.

There’s the gofundme set up by Met Crew Chasers, a group of collegiate storm chasers in Oklahome that Brooks, Nair and Short were part of. As of Thursday, the fundraiser had raised nearly $66,000 for their families.

The hashtag #RIPOU3 on Twitter was used by hundreds of users to share memories and words of love for the three storm chasers. Coverage of the incident went global; Tammy said she saw TV reports from all over, including places like England, Germany, India and China.

The outpouring of kind words and memories helps the family following Drake’s passing, Tammy said. Remembering what a kind and friendly person he was also helped.

She spent time talking to her friends at OU and tried to get them to understand that point, the one that sums up who Drake was as a person and as a friend.

“If he called you his friend, it meant he saw something in you because he was an observer,” Tammy said. “He saw a light in you and if he called you his friend, you really were.”

Contact Ray Couture at [email protected] or on Twitter @raybc94.

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