The 1996 film "Twister" followed a group of scientists trying to collect data from inside of a tornado. This may sound like science fiction, but anyone who has watched the Discovery Channel's series "Storm Chasers" knows this idea is not that far fetched.
On Tuesday, a vehicle designed to take a direct hit from a tornado visited La Crosse.
"What we have behind me is the Tornado Intercept Vehicle, what we call the "TIV"," said Mike Day, senior VP at the Science Museum of Minnesota and executive producer of the film "Tornado Alley". And this armored vehicle is a very heavily modified Dodge Truck. And it's all designed to drive into tornadoes."
Footage gathered in the TIV is featured in the Discovery Channel's hit TV series "Storm Chasers" and now the Science Museum of Minnesota's new Imax film "Tornado Alley"
"We're going to go out and we're not just only going to film tornadoes," said Day. "We're going to build a vehicle that can go into tornadoes and capture that experience on film."
"It's exciting. It's an adrenaline rush, I won't lie to you about that," said Brandon Ivey, meteorologist, storm chaser, and TIV navigator. "But at the same time, you do have the element of fear in the back of your mind… Did we just set up in front of something that's too strong for this vehicle to handle? But the level of excitement and the thrill of the chase really outweighs and overpowers that sense of fear."
Students at Lincoln Middle School enthusiastically welcomed the vehicle, but not all reactions are the same.
"You get a lot of weird looks and blank stares," said Ivey. "People trying to figure out exactly what this vehicle is."
"It has been so much fun driving around from city to city following the tornado intercept vehicle," said Day. "It is a one of a kind vehicle. There isn't another one like this. And everybody looks at it, and you can watch people stop on the street and gawk at it… You know, it's the Batmobile on steroids."
But when they see it, most people have very practical questions in mind.
"I'll yell you," said Day. "One of the most common questions we're asked when we stop at a gas station is "how much is it going to cost you to fill up?" And I can tell you, I filled it up yesterday, it cost me $300."
The TIV is designed to withstand winds up to 165mph and will help scientists better understand the nature of violent tornadic storms. There aren't any plans to make a vehicle able to withstand stronger tornadoes, but Day said there has been discussion of making a vehicle to chase hurricanes.
The Film "Tornado Alley" will premiere at the Science Museum of Minnesota in Saint Paul on September 28, 2012.
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