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Blown Away by the TIV


When your nickname is “Doppler Debbie” (complete with theme song), the pinnacle of star struck isn’t George Clooney or Justin Bieber, but rather meeting Sean Casey, director of the IMAX film Tornado Alley. Finish that off with a ride in the Tornado Intercept Vehicle (TIV) made famous in the Discovery Channel series “Storm Chasers” the end result is a….well…. an unabashed weather geek’s most extraordinary day.

Here for a stopover at the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center on Saturday, August 20th - Sean Casey and TIV2 driver Marcus Gutierrez took the TIV on a “pre-visit” spin through Balboa Park.  



The TIV was designed to take the filmmaker inside the whirling vortex of a tornado.”An armored tripod on wheels,” it houses a 360 degree filming turret where much of the severe weather footage was filmed.   







To keep the TIV (and the crew) safe and on the ground in 170 mph winds, the TIV is built with:

Stabilizing spears that can pierce the ground at a depth of 42 inches:











Four hydraulic drop-down skirts that block the wind and debris during a tornado intercept:


And two inches of protective armor around the cab: First aluminum, then Kevlar, then aluminum, then steel, then rubber, then half-inch polycarb, then rubber and finally more aluminum.

Sean’s plans for future films? His eyes light up as he describes his dreams of a Tornado Alley sequel. “We’ve got so much great footage from our final season of shooting Tornado Alley that we just didn’t have time to get into this film. I want to incorporate that footage into a sequel that really focuses on the people and the characters that we didn’t have time to develop. And, of course, we’re a little less cautious now. We know how to do an intercept.”


And the TIV? Sean patted the dash gently and smiled. “Maybe I’ll build a new one. But I think that we’ll make some improvements on this one. Maybe air conditioning…maybe real cup holders…maybe some stabilizers on the mirrors.” Marcus piped in “Maybe make it a little more water-proof.”  Sean jumped out of the TIV with Marcus and the two began an animated discussion about adding spikes to the front of the TIV and modifying aluminum skirts…two storm chasers plotting their next adventure.

And Doppler Debbie? Star struck for sure.  

You can meet Sean and Marcus and take pictures inside the TIV on Saturday, August 20th – from 10:00am until 4:00pm at the Fleet. The “meet and greet” is free.

Catch the film “Tornado Alley”  - Admission Applies
11:00 a.m., 12:00 p.m., 2:00 p.m. & 4:00 p.m.