Into the storm: Why we give chase

Into the storm part 2: Why we give chase
Val and Amy Castor have chased storms in Oklahoma for 2 decades (Source: KSLA News 12)
Val and Amy Castor have chased storms in Oklahoma for 2 decades (Source: KSLA News 12)

OKLAHOMA CITY, OK (KSLA) - For the last 25 years, Oklahoma storm chaser Val Castor has tracked storms in the field. It's not because it seems like something cool to do, but because he truly feels its life-saving.

"That's part of the reason we're out here to sound accurate warnings," says Castor who has chased with his wife Amy for the last 19 years.

"You have radar and all kinds of equipment and technology," explains Castor, "but you'll always need a storm chaser to let you know if the rotation is at cloud base or getting ready to be a tornado and come to the ground."

Typical radar only doesn't allow meteorologist to detect possible tornadic rotation at ground level. So many times, a storm chaser is a vital part of tracking severe weather.

Back on April 26, StormTracker 12's Clay Ostarly and myself spent the day with the Castors, chasing across his home state of Oklahoma.

"The hardest part of storm chasing is having the patience," says Castor.

Chasers typically head out and position themselves well in advance in areas where storms are expected to fire up.

"It's like boiling a pot of water and predicting when that first bubble is going to float up," adds Castor.

During our 11 hour venture chasing storms, we followed a number of tornado warned storms from the southwest corner of the state into the Oklahoma City metro. During that time, we saw countless others following the storms and Val's storm tracking vehicle.

"We used to hardly see any chasers. It makes it harder to navigate through," admits Val. But it hasn't discouraged him from his life's work.

"God has given me a passion to chase storms and it helps people. It keeps people safe".

By the 11th hour of chasing, we tracked a storm into the Arcadia, OK area at around 8:30 at night. Moments after we stopped on Route 66 as it crossed the highway, it struck Tony Rumpl's home.

"It could have been real bad.  My daughter's bedroom was pretty much destroyed," says Rumpl.

He adds his family of 5 left their home for a neighbor's shelter just moments before the tornado hit due to warnings from meteorologist and storm chasers reporting on the storm on TV.

"You don't need to panic. If they say there is a danger, you need to take that seriously and react accordingly."

The Rumpl family was not injured.  However their home, which they just had built in December, suffered significant damage.

Copyright 2016 KSLA. All rights reserved.