A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a column about a young man who currently is staying with my wife and I while trying to recover from drug and alcohol addiction and living on the mean streets for four or five years. That story is on-going and the ending is hopeful, but still unknown at this time. This column is about three young men who took opposite roads than young “John” who I wrote about then. One of them is my son, who was mentioned briefly in the “John” column two weeks ago.

 

Tornados are one of the most devastating and serious threats Americans face every year. There actually are more tornados in the U.S. each year than there are in any other country and in some years the death toll can be staggering. My son, Warren C. Causey, is the founder and leader of a three-person storm chasing team that is breaking entirely new ground in this area of scientific research.

Joshua Learn of Climate Wire wrote an article about Warren C. and his team this week from which I quote: “A group of mechanical engineering students are working on a project that will fly drones into the middle of tornadoes in an effort to learn more about the inner workings of these destructive storms. Warren Causey, the founder of the ‘Sirens Project,’ said this better understanding could lead to increased warning times for incoming tornadoes.” If you want to read Learn’s entire story, you will find it here (http://www.eenews.net/cw/), but you will have to register at the site to view it. I’m going to quote a bit from Learn’s story, which was very good at describing my son’s very important work.

“‘We’re looking for patterns in super-cell thunderstorms to differentiate which ones will produce tornados and which ones won’t’, said Causey. “Currently the best warning systems can give only a 12-to-13 minute warning before the tornado. ‘If you’re in the shower and you get a tornado warning and miss it, you’re kind of out of luck’. Knowing the specific mix of conditions that can trigger a tornado also will allow forecasters to cut down on false warnings. ‘There’s a 70-percent false alarm rate,’ he said. ‘We can eliminate that cry-wolf situation by warning about the storms that actually need warning.

‘Causey was only 17 when he started chasing tornados. At 22 he was in the area of the world’s largest recorded tornado near El Reno, OK, and was at one point only a few cars ahead of Tim Samaras–a man featured on the Discovery Channel’s ‘Storm Chasers’ — before Samaras was killed along with his son and another man when their car was picked up and tossed by the storm. ‘The car was pretty much unrecognizable after that incident,’ Causey said.”

“Samaras was the founder of a project called Tactical Weather-instrumented Sampling in/near Tornados Experiment or TWISTEX, which used different instruments to gather data on the elements that make up a tornado, including wind speeds and direction, humidity and atmospheric pressure. ‘Tim Samaras had been a very big pioneer in storm research, designing ground-based probes,’ Causey said.

“The ‘Sirens’ project will make use of some of the TWISTEX instruments in a sensor package that will measure barometric pressure, temperature, G-forces and relative humidity. The sensor package is encased in what’s similar to bulletproof Plexiglas,’ Causey said. ‘The idea isn’t unlike the small deployable sensors used in the movie “Twister”. ‘They weren’t too far off with a good idea there, but when the movie was made we didn’t really have the technology to do something like that,’ he said, adding that it’s one of the first instruments that will be able to gather 3-D data on tornados.

“The main body looks a little like a miniature stealth bomber, with the body made from foam aviation fiberglass. The team has made several prototypes and soon will be finished with the drone it will use to fly into the storm, but Causey said the team will likely need several attempts. In order to fund the designs and the biggest expense–costs related to storm chasing like food, gas and hotels–the team has begun a Kickstarter campaign to help raise money. ‘It’s kind of rough on the nerves, but we’ll see what happens,’ Causey said of the funding campaign.”

“The team–including Nolan Lunsford and Brent Bouthiller–also are drone enthusiasts and have experience building remote-controlled unmanned aircraft. Causey said the drones can be operated with the help of a GoPro camera at a distance of five to 15 miles–a situation that should limit the extreme danger that can lead to tragedies like that of Samaras and his crew.

‘Instead of driving our truck into the tornado, we’ll be flying the drone,’ Causey said. ‘My mom wasn’t too happy about the storm chasing,’ he added. But with the distance and remote-controlled sensing, his parents are a little more OK with his project. Once inside the tornado, the drone will begin to act like a piece of debris and also will help gather information on how debris is accelerated and tossed around in the storms. The senor is equipped with a GPS locator and sends back data that can be picked up with through cellphone or Internet. But the team wants to minimize the damage to the senor itself.”

You can find out more about the Sirens Project, with video, and even contribute, if you would like here: https://www.kickstarter.com/…/the-sirens-project-uav-tornad…

Needless to say, my wife and I are extremely proud of our son, who will graduate Southern Polytechnic soon with an engineering degree, is a strong Christian and has a wonderful girlfriend, also a strong Christian, who is a registered nurse about to start work on an advanced degree. He also has another unique characteristic that makes him very special in today’s declining society that is killing millions of children. We adopted him at birth after a young woman refused the urging she was receiving to have an abortion. My wife was in the delivery room. I was in the Persian Gulf about to invade Iraq and didn’t get to first see him until he was six weeks old!