How the Tornado Intercept Vehicle Works

Natural Disasters Image Gallery The TIV, before the addition of a rotating turret to house the IMAX camera. See more pictures of natural disasters.

Photo courtesy George Kourounis

Most people -- especially those living in the American Midwest -- know how to boost their chances of surviving a tornado. First, get into a basement or a storm cellar. If that's not possible, hide in an interior, windowless room, preferably under a mattress or blankets. Never stay in a car or a mobile home -- lying a ditch, while definitely uncomfortable in the middle of a severe storm, is a lot safer.

Some people ignore this advice and become tornado chasers, but even chasers generally stay about a mile away from a tornado -- close enough to see, but relatively out of danger. Anyone wanting a closer look, or to actually get a glimpse of the interior of a tornado, would need a heavy, armored vehicle that could withstand intense winds, debris and hail.

That's exactly what IMAX cinematographer Sean Casey has built with his Tornado Intercept Vehicle (TIV). The TIV is big, heavy and armor plated. With it, Casey hopes to record a direct hit with a tornado and survive.

Read on to learn more about the TIV's armor and instruments, as well as what happens when it encounters a tornado.