‘Storm Chasers’ visit Weaver Lake Elementary

Students check out tornado vehicle

Students at Weaver Lake Elementary School had some reality television excitement Monday, Sept. 17. A special guest stopped by the school

The TIV (Tornado Intercept Vehicle) was parked at the school for second through sixth graders to check out. The TIV was featured on the Discovery Channel show “Storm Chasers.” Also from the show, Brandon Ivey, spoke with students about his time chasing tornadoes and the TIV.

Weaver Lake Elementary School was chosen by the Science Museum of Minnesota for a visit by a tornado chaser and special vehicle used during the chases. The school was part of a seven-city tour because it is a magnet school in District 279 that focuses on science, math and technology, which made it a fit for the tour.


The Science Museum of Minnesota will be showing the Omnitheater film “Tornado Alley,” starting in the end of September and running through December. The TIV is touring around the country and making stops around the towns the film will be shown.

“Tornado Alley” follows Sean Casey, the star of “Storm Chasers” series, and the scientists of VORTEX2, an ambitious research project that seeks to understand the origins of tornadoes and the supercell storms that form them, gathering the most comprehensive severe weather data ever collected. The team’s ultimate goal is to establish a better understanding of how tornadoes form and increase warning times to protect the people in their awesomely destructive paths.

Ivey said there are three shots in the film that took place in Minnesota. These shots were around the Wadena EF 4 tornado that hit in 2010. The TIV was only able to get shots from the distance, as the winds were too strong for the vehicle.

Ivey is the meteorologist in the TIV. He discussed how the TIV was built and it’s special features. Sean Casey is the designer and developer of the TIV.

The TIV was built on the platform of a Dodge 3500 and weighs 14,500 pounds, travels up to 100 mph, and is designed to take a direct hit from a tornado.

“The whole reason this vehicle was designed, was to allow Sean to get really close shots of weather and even inside some of the tornadoes,” Ivey added. “We have been in six tornado circulations with this vehicle.”

He said the TIV can only go into tornadoes ranging from an EF 1 to EF 3. The EF 4 and EF 5 tornadoes are too strong for the TIV. Ivey said engineers had looked at the vehicle and determined the TIV can with stand winds up to 165 miles per hour.

Being in a tornado that is 150 miles per hour is still extreme. “The roar of the roar of the rushing of the winds is probably the thing you remember the most,” Ivey said. “It sounds kind of like being behind a big jet engine as it revving up to take off. Just that loud roar. The vehicle also shakes back and forth pretty vigorously. Your ears will also usually pop.”

He added the impact time is around 5 to 10 seconds with a tornado intercept.

The TIV also has four stabilizing spears that can pierce the ground, not pavement. The front spears go a little over 3 feet into the ground and the back ones go a little over 2 feet into the ground.

There is a rotating camera turret with bullet-resistant windows that allows Casey to film tornadoes with his camera. This is where shots from the movie were filmed.

Ivey also talked about where Tornado Alley is located. “I live in Wichita, Kansas, and it’s out there in heart of tornado alley,” he said. “It’s a centrally located bulls eye in the heart of Kansas for tornadoes.”

He said he goes out in the TIV from late April through late June during the peak of tornado season. Ivey said the driver of the TIV, Marcus, is also a trained medic, which helps them aid and assist after a tornado has gone through a town.

“I ride in the passenger side,” Ivey said. “I’m usually on the computer watching the radar, doing the weather forecast, navigating the routes to get us exactly where we need to be to close to these tornadoes.”

Ivey has been chasing storms since he was 16 years old. He told the students that he got interested in weather around fifth grade. He has been with the TIV team for the past four seasons. His hobby of chasing storms has become more of a job now. “You get it in your blood,” he said.

Advance reservations are recommended for “Tornado Alley” and are available online at www.smm.org or via phone at 651-221-9444. For specific directions and other museum information, visit www.smm.org.