Weather was a passion for Grayslake student killed returning from storm chasing trip
Since he was a boy, Gavin Short was interested in the weather.
"Once he discovered the Weather Channel on TV, it was just a passion that grew and grew inside him," his father, Allan Short, said Sunday.
Gavin, a student at the University of Oklahoma who grew up in Grayslake, was destined for a brilliant career in meteorology when his life was cut short Friday at age 19.
He and two other meteorology students, Nicholas Nair, 20, of Denton, Texas, and Drake Brooks, 22, of Evansville, Indiana, were killed shortly before 11:30 p.m. Friday, when their vehicle was struck by a tractor-trailer rig in northern Oklahoma, according to an Oklahoma Highway Patrol report.
The students were headed back to campus after chasing a powerful tornado in Kansas, according to officials.
Describing his son as a gifted and talented student, Alan Short said Gavin had natural talents in math and science.
"And so (meteorology) was just kind of a perfect fit for him," said Alan Short, adding that Gavin was fascinated by the "sheer beauty and power of weather."
"We actually have a weather station in our backyard that he did use to create somewhat localized forecasts for us," he said.
It was at the University of Oklahoma where Short blossomed after bonding with a close-knit group of budding meteorologists.
"Since Gavin went off to college, he really had been living his best life," his father said.
Gavin and Nair were taking Brooks on his first storm chase, and he had seen his first tornado the night of the crash, Allan Short said.
Gavin's friends remembered him Sunday as an intelligent student who also knew how to have fun.
Emily Barbini described him as a "servant leader."
"He was so selfless. He could drop anything on a dime just to help anybody out," she said, adding he was also fond of an impromptu joke and video games like Minecraft.
Gavin had ambitions of working for the National Weather Service, Barbini said.
"He was extremely smart. He blew so many of us away," said fellow student Mara Davis.
But she also said peers loved him "because he was just so sweet and reserved."
Davis said Gavin planned a group trip to Chicago, "because he was so proud to be from there."
Another fellow university student and friend, Emily Hunt, said Gavin was doing undergraduate research on hurricanes and tropical cyclones.
"But he always loved tornadoes and thunderstorms as well," she said.
She recalled one trip with friends from last April in Maud, Oklahoma.
"We barely saw anything exciting except for mammatus clouds, but just spending the time with Gavin (and the others) was very memorable," she said.
• Daily Herald wire services contributed to this story