Val Castor: 26 Years Of Chasing
OKLAHOMA CITY - When the storms are headed toward your home, News 9 storm trackers are right there in the middle of the action to bring us real time reports. No one on our team has more experience than Val Castor along with his wife Amy by his side.
This year, Val celebrates 26 years with News 9 and admits he's been in some pretty harrowing situations.
"It's very hectic, it's fast-paced," said Val Castor, News 9 Storm Tracker. "I'd be lying if I said that I never got scared."
Val has covered hundreds of storms and tornadoes. When looking back he says on May 3, 1999, he and Amy saw their first EF5 tornado ripped through Moore. He said at one point, the twister was half a mile or less in front of them when they saw it level a house.
"We were able to track that storm all the way to southwest Oklahoma into the Oklahoma City metro area," Val recalls. "I remember thinking and telling Amy 'look at this, we're starting to get into neighborhoods now, this is going to be bad' and it was."
The tornado tore through the cities of Bridge Creek, Newcastle, Moore and parts of the south side of Oklahoma City. It claimed 36 lives, destroyed 1,800 homes and damaged another 2,500, according to the National Weather Service. Val and Amy also remember the widest tornado they ever saw.
"There are times when it's very unpredictable, like May 31st, of 2013," Amy said. "That was one of the first times I remember Val saying 'we need to get out of here.'"
The powerful EF3 tornado touched down southwest of El Reno and rapidly grew in size and became more violent as it tracked through central portions of Canadian County. Remaining over mostly open terrain, the tornado impacted some structures.
"The lip of the wall cloud is right above us and it's expanding westward back over us," Val said.
The immense, multiple vortex tornado killed four storm chasers including TWISTEX scientist and engineer Tim Samaras, along with his son Paul and research partner Carl Young.
"The widest tornado ever recorded on the face of the earth, 2.6 miles wide," Val said. "It's the biggest one we've ever seen obviously."
However, in all his years of chasing storms, it's the small ones he likes to remember.
Then, in 2007, Val fondly remembers one tornado west of Arnett.
"We were able to drive up within about 200 yards of it and just get really incredible video of it," he said. "When you get close enough to these tornadoes, you can hear it; you can actually hear the roar that they make."
Val says it was out in the middle of nowhere with perfect visibility.
"I like to remember the ones that don't hurt anybody and don't tear up anything," he said.
Now, 26 years with News 9, Val and Amy say they will not let up on keeping Oklahoman's safe.
"It just such an honor and a privilege to work here that long and for people to have confidence in what we do," said Amy.
"It's hard to imagine it's been 25 years," Val said. "What started out years ago as a passion or maybe thrill seeking has kind of turned over the years into more of a passion to help people and to keep people safe and to save lives."