MAY 18

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by Hummer Storm Chaser

Tornado Intercept Vehicle Two

Karen Kosiba in TIV2 navigator seat
Under the TIV2 turret
TIV2 seat view

Made famous by the Discovery Channel series “Storm Chasers” last fall, the TIV (Tornado Intercept Vehicle) number 2 is the brainchild of IMAX cinematographer Sean Casey, who built TIV 1 back in 2001. The TIV 2 first ran in the 2008 chase season. Casey has been chasing tornados for the past 15 years with the object of getting the impossible footage of a tornado actually hitting the IMAX camera. The TIV 2 is based on a 2007 Dodge pickup with a 6.7-liter turbodiesel engine, while the similarly styled TIV 1 was a Ford F450 pickup chassis.

The 14,000-pound TIV 2 gets about 12 mpg, and Casey and his crew have driven the vehicle about 12,000 miles so far this tornado season. It is made of plate steel, like the TIV 1, but some bolt-on panels have been made of aluminum, to save weight over the TIV 1. The TIV 2 boasts three-foot spikes that are driven by hydraulic rams into the earth to prevent wind from blowing the TIV 2 on a slick road. It also has hydraulic “wings” that drop down to block wind from getting under the vehicle. Windows are made of thick lexan, and there are four seats from fighter aircraft that are intended to hold the crew secure.

Like TIV 1, there is a turret on top that swivels 360 degrees and mounts the IMAX large format film camera. TIV 1 was created with an adjustable suspension that dropped the vehicle to the ground when it was parked in the path of a tornado, but TIV 2 uses the wings and spikes to anchor itself to the earth in high wind.

Casey and his crew plan to park the TIV 2 in front of a big twister this year, and the vehicle is outfitted with data-gathering sensors that it will use to contribute to the VORTEX2 project. Still, it’s unlikely that the TIV 2 will survive the biggest tornados, according to a group of curious local ranchers in Hays, Texas, who tell stories of their neighbor’s five 50,000-pound combines that were blown around a field by a twister. “You can’t believe how strong that wind is,” they said.

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