How the Tornado Intercept Vehicle Works

Chasing a Tornado

The Dimmitt Tornado, south of Dimmitt Texas. Photographed as part of project VORTEX.
The Dimmitt Tornado, south of Dimmitt Texas. Photographed as part of project VORTEX.

What happens when the TIV chases a tornado? That depends on whether Casey and his team are working with other chasers or independently. The first step is always research. All storm chasers must determine where tornadoes are likely to form and which approach to the storm will give them the best view while keeping them out of the most dangerous parts of the storm.

Recently, Casey has worked with Dr. Joshua Werman of the Center for Severe Weather Research (CSWR). The CSWR uses the DOWs and other equipment to study tornadoes. Members of the CSWR team analyze data about the storm and help decide where to deploy the TIV [ref]. When working with the CSWR, the TIV collects data up to the edge of the debris cloud, not into the tornado itself.

However, Casey designed and built the TIV with the goal of getting footage of a tornado approaching and then hitting the IMAX camera. In order to do this, he positions the TIV in the path of a tornado in a low-lying area. Then, the team films the tornado from within the TIV turret. Casey designed the TIV to withstand 200 mph winds, which accounts for about 75 percent of the tornadoes that form in the United States. This, and careful attention to the progression of the storm, reduces the likelihood of damage or destruction.

Eventually, footage from the TIV's expeditions will appear in an IMAX film about tornadoes called "Tornado Alley."

For more information about the TIV, tornadoes and tornado chasing, check out the links below.

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More Great Links


  • Berg, Phil. "Casey vs. the Tornado." AutoWeek, July 18, 2005.
  • Doppler on Wheels - Center for Severe Weather Research.
  • "Forces of Nature Interview: Director of Photography Sean Casey.", September 30, 2004.
  • "Funnel Vision." LA Times. June 28, 2005.,1,6674669.story
  • "Interesting Storm Chase Vehicles." University of Nebraska-Lincoln High Plains Regional Climate Center, May 16, 2004.
  • "Stormchaser's Diary." The Reuben H. Fleet Science Center.
  • Svenvold, Mark. "Big Weather: Chasing Tornadoes in the Heart of America." Henry Holt & Co, May 10, 2005. ISBN 0805076468
  • Tornado Alley.
  • "Tornado Intercept Vehicle." Prentiss Riddle, July 25, 2003.
  • "Tornado Intercept Vehicle.", May 10, 2003.
  • Vesilind, Pritt J. "Chasing Tornadoes." National Geographic.