Interesting Storm Chase Vehicles
Photographed Sunday, May 16, 2004 in York, Nebraska
They were in Nebraska to intercept the tornadoes that occurred in central Nebraska later that same day.

Photo by Matt Crowther.  On the left are two "Doppler on Wheels" research vehicles which
travel the Great Plains in Spring and Summer as a part of funded storm research at the University of Oklahoma.
Click HERE to learn more about the DOW vehicles.
Click HERE to see where the DOW vehicles are in spring 2004.
On the right is the IMAX Tornado Intercept vehicle which is being used to photograph tornadoes.
Information about this upcoming IMAX movie is found below the next photograph.

Photo by Matt Crowther. Another view of the two DOWs and the IMAX tornado Intercept vehicle.

Here is what the IMAX movie photographers have to say about their Tornado Intercept Vehicle:
The vehicle you may have seen on the Mid-west roads this spring is a vehicle designed to safely film tornadoes from a close distance. This vehicle has not been designed to penetrate tornadoes only to film at close quarters. We are in the process of producing an Imax film on tornadoes, which will be released in 2008.

In making the TIV, Tornado Intercept Vehicle, we took a Ford 450 super duty truck and striped it down to the engine and chassis. Building back up, we used 1/4” steel for the flooring and tubing that makes up the inner “skeleton”. The exterior skin is 1/8” thick steel with the side windows made of 1/2” thick Lexan polycarbonate material. The material for the front windshields is 1 1/4” thick Lexan. The driver compartment and the area where the cameraman operates are double walled with another layer of 1/8” thick steel.

TIV is only the prototype. We are testing out a number of designs before building TIV2. 

I’m a firm believer that an Imax film about tornadoes will be popular with theater operators as well as with audiences. The power and other-worldliness of this subject matter has a special place in the imagination of the American public. The attraction is rooted more deeply than just a fascination with destructive forces, but with the desire to witness something truly miraculous. It is with these expectations that we set out to create a truly remarkable film.

I have been chasing tornadoes for the past five years and only now do I feel that I’m ready to capture the fleeting moments of awe-inspiring nature that occur in Tornado Alley. The only way to relay the true intensity of a tornado is to be very close while filming. That is why for over the past two years we have been developing a vehicle from which we can film near the tornado and still be safe.

The camera is mounted on top of the vehicle in a military-style tank turret. This placement gives us the ability to film at all times, in any direction, and while on the move, all essential aspects when chasing down tornadoes. 

All of the alterations done this year were the result of hard lessons the year before. Instead of a turret we had large windows that opened on each side of the vehicle. The design was based around simplicity, which limited us in the directions we could shoot and during the Manchester tornado (24 June 2003) caused us to miss some opportunities. In this case, the tornado was on the road directly in front of us and if we could have filmed straight ahead, as we can with the turret, then we could have driven right up to the tornado, within a couple hundred feet. But as it was, we had to pull over to the side of the road and stop so that the shooting port could face the tornado.

The endeavor may seem to be risky, but with the safety precautions we are taking, I feel confident that the chances of injury are very low.

Another aspect of our endeavor is to equip our vehicles with instrumentation that can record data helpful to the DOW team we are following. TIV1 has been outfitted with a sonic anemometer, blade style anemometer, and instrumentation that measure pressure, temperature, and humidity. It is the exact equipment with which each of the DOW trucks has been outfitted so that our data will be easier to synchronize with theirs.

With this instrumentation attached to our vehicles, we will be able to test the environment at positions close to the tornadic circulation. The DOW trucks are able to collect data sets of the upper and mid level wind fields, but due to the fact that they must remain roughly two to eight miles from the tornado, they don't have the opportunity to collect measurements in the lowest 50 feet near the tornado. With our vehicles we hope to help provide those readings and help advance the scientific understanding of tornados and their near-environment. 

Send Inquiries to

their website is:  and then click on the TIV photograph on the right side of the page.

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