Storm researchers ride out tornadoes in special vehicleBrandon Ivey knows what it's like to be under the funnel of a tornado.
By: By Patrick B. Anderson, La Crosse Tribune, Wis., Superior Telegram
Brandon Ivey knows what it's like to be under the funnel of a tornado.
The pressure change can pop ears, like an ascending airplane. The vortex creates a rushing sound, like a roaring waterfall.
His steel-reinforced truck starts to shake.
Ivey has seen about 200 twisters since he started chasing, and, thanks to the Tornado Intercept Vehicle, he's been under three.
"There is an element of fear to it," Ivey said. "It is a thrill. It is an adrenaline rush."
The 14,500-pound Humvee-like automobile toured La Crosse on Tuesday to promote a new film about tornadoes and recent research aimed at improving how weather officials predict and warn against the deadly phenomena.
The TIV started as a Dodge 3500, but it looks more like a military vehicle than a pickup truck, designed by IMAX filmmakers to withstand a direct hit by a tornado.
The TIV was created to film the inner workings of a tornado, and its images are featured in a new film, "Tornado Alley," opening Sept. 28 at the Science Museum of Minnesota in St. Paul, Minn.
The museum's Omnitheater uses IMAX display to put audiences in the TIV's front seat, said Mike Day, museum senior vice president and the films executive producer.
"You're in a TIV, you're going for a ride," Day said. "You're part of the fast and furious action."
The warning time for a tornado is 12 minutes, and experts can predict such an event with only 25 percent accuracy, Day said. The goal of research now is to improve the accuracy of predictions and to add time for extra warning.
A 150-yard-wide tornado destroyed nine homes and damaged 125 others in La Crosse when it touched down for four minutes in May 2011, blowing 120 mph winds for 2.3 miles from Green Island Park to the bluff at the end of Farnam Street.
There wasn't much time to prepare. But the St. Paul museum's film will show how research can improve prediction methods.
"It's all about saving lives," Day said. "If we can begin to understand the conditions that actually create the tornado, we've moved forward in time."
(c)2012 the La Crosse Tribune (La Crosse, Wis.)
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