Val & Amy Castor Help OSU Early Tornado Warning Research

Monday, May 11th 2020, 6:15 pm

News 9 StormTrackers Val and Amy Castor’s truck is now equipped with Oklahoma State University research equipment that could help predict if a storm is likely to produce a tornado earlier by listening to the sounds the mesocyclone makes.

“The larger the tornado, the earlier the signal starts showing up,” OSU researcher Dr. Brian Elbing said. “It definitely appears before the tornado touches down, so it's definitely related to some tornado genesis process.”

“If there's a tornado on the ground and you're close enough to it, you can hear the tornado,” Val Castor said.

Many people who go through tornadoes liken the sound to a freight train barreling down the tracks.

However, the sound waves Elbing is looking for are different than the roar Val and Amy hear on the ground.

“That frequency is below what humans can hear,” Elbing said; between 1 Hz and 10 Hz.

The Castor’s truck is the first and only vehicle in Oklahoma to be equipped with the Oklahoma State microphone technology.

“Val Castor, him carrying it this is pretty exciting,” Elbing said. “What it allows us to do is get some measurements close to tornadoes.”

Researchers said they still aren’t certain what causes storms to make the low pulsing sound, but said if they listen close enough, the technology could save lives.

“If I’m picking up a signal potentially half an hour before a tornado forms at a certain location, we could put resources closer to the location of interest,” Elbing said.

“When I first started chasing, it was fun, it was adrenaline, it was exciting,” Val Castor said. “But now as we get into it more and more, we can see the side of it that actually helps people and keeps people safe to me that's what makes it all worth it. Hopefully we can save more lives.”