July 26, 2012

Flying Old Bessie: StormChasers and the Real-Life 'Twister' Crew


We are all familiar with the phrase “when pigs fly”, but what about cows? When it comes to tracking tornadoes, scenes of the film “Twister” often come to mind.  While Helen Hunt and Bill Paxton have captured the title of the ultimate storm chasers on the silver screen, they could have some competition in the real world. The TV series, “StormChasers” on Discovery follows a group of the world’s top storm chasers as they track the most dangerous weather patterns in “Tornado Alley.”

 

The fearless team consists of Reed Timmer, Chris Chittick, and Joel Taylor; let’s meet them. Reed Timmer, TVN lead storm chaser and meteorologist, got his first taste of the chase after getting pelted with a golf-size ball of hail at a young age. TImmer has captured over 200 tornadoes on film and developed an armored research vehicle called the TVN Dominator, but we will get into that later.

Chris Chittick, TVN storm chaser and videographer, has always been fascinated with extreme weather, driving over 50,000 miles every year documenting every possible storm. Famous for his steady hands, Chittick is the lead videographer for the TornadoVideos.net team.

Last but certainly not least, Joel Taylor, TVN driver and meteorologist, grew up in the midst of “Tornado Alley”. You could call it a match made in heaven (or Mother Nature), Taylor and Timmer actually met at the University of Oklahoma while studying meteorology. The two shared a passion for extreme weather and the rest was history. Having had a front-row seat to the action, Taylor’s knowledge of the twisting roads through the Great Plains makes him a trusty driver.

You didn’t think these guys laced up their Nikes and chased a tornado through 100+ mph winds, did you? The team rides in style, deck out in the new improved DOMINATOR 2.  The team uses the DOMINATOR 2 to collect new scientific data in the heart of roaring tornadoes. The DOMINATOR 2 is also built around the 2011 GMC Yukon with a large base and storage. The vehicle has an aerodynamic shell that prohibits it from lifting upward or flipping in high speed winds. Made up of sheet metal, transparent Lexan, and Line-X coating, this shell protects the vehicle from flying debris. To protect the team, the vehicle is equipped with a roll cage and safety seats similar to race car models.

 Image taken from Discovery.com

To safely collect data, the model is equipped with an “air cannon array for launching probed directly into the funnel of a tornado,” says the StormChasers official website. “The probes deploy parachutes so they can be carried by cyclonic winds while recording data and capturing HD video. This array is now integrated within the outer body so parachute probes can be reloaded from inside the vehicle,” the website added.

The team also has three more customized vehicles; the TIV2, TWISTEX PROBE, and the DOW.

These daredevils are risking their lives for the name of science, and we are happy to be entertained!




Edited by Allison Boccamazzo



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