I've always been fascinated with weather. Growing up in Florida introduced me to hurricanes and a lot of severe storms. In 1999, The Weather Channel became a client and allowed me the opportunity to start chasing storms and meet some fascinating people.
In 2001, I met Meteorologist Josh Wurman, best known for his Doppler On Wheels (DOW) trucks that ply the roads of tornado alley. I think it was in 2002 that I met IMAX filmmaker Sean Casey and his Tornado Intercept Vehicle (TIV). Over the years I chased, rode with and followed behind the teams during numerous storms. By 2006, they were becoming celebrities in their own right and in 2007, Discovery Channel premiered 'Storm Chasers.' The show documented Josh's attempts to collect needed data to better understand tornadoes and Sean's attempt to film enough IMAX footage of tornadoes for his company's next film 'Tornado Alley' which was a follow-up to their 2004 'Forces of Nature' IMAX film.
Fast forward to 2011 and 'Tornado Alley' is now showing in IMAX theatres around the country. In Atlanta, it opens today at the Fernbank Museum of Natural History. Sean and his TIV are scheduled to be at Fernbank on Sunday, April 3rd. One of the DOW trucks will be visiting Fernbank in the following week.
Back in 2004, I hopped in the TIV and shot some video of Sean at work. In the video below, Sean loads the 90-pound IMAX camera onto it's mount located in the turret of the TIV. By the way, one load of 70mm film lasts all of 3 minutes. Not exactly conducive to filming a long track tornado, but it makes you appreciate the work that goes into capturing such a powerful force of nature.
A few notes about the video and TIV. Before Sean had corporate sponsors, he decided to paint the name of his camo-clothing company, Bushrag, on the side of the TIV. Sean did most of the welding himself and built the steel shell on the frame of a Ford F-450. The turret was added to aid in getting better images of tornadoes. As originally built, the driver had to position the TIV at 90 degree angles to film out hatches located midway on both sides of the TIV. Sean deserves an award for persistence, perseverance and originality during his eight year quest to film 'Tornado Alley.' Now, it's off to see the movie!