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The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

IMAX documentary examines crazy weather conditions with giant tank

By Drew Williams/sports editor

It weighs 14,000 pounds, and its bumper sticker reads “I brake for wind.” It is the second of the TIVs, or tornado intercept vehicles.

IMAX movie Tornado Alley follows weather fanatic Sean Casey, who drives a tank chasing tornadoes. The tank is made from a Dodge Ram 3500 with a third axle for six-wheel drive, a 6.7 liter-turbo engine and a 92-gallon fuel tank.
Drew Williams/ The Collegian

The TIV 2 was in the parking lot of the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History April 8 for the debut of the new IMAX movie Tornado Alley. The documentary examines the efforts of weather fanatics, like Sean Casey, creator of the TIV, to get more information from tornadoes so meteorologists can give warnings earlier than currently possible.

The movie starts with Casey showing off his TIV 2, one of the most interesting parts of the documentary. It is a Dodge Ram 3500 with a third axle allowing for six-wheel-drive. It has a 6.7-liter turbo-diesel engine accompanied with a 92-gallon fuel tank for traveling long distances and can reach speeds of 100 mph. Maybe more impressive than the ability of a 14,000-pound vehicle essentially covered in body armor to reach speeds of 100 mph is the fact it gets an average of 12 miles per gallon.

The outside of the Dodge is covered with steel plates and bulletproof glass to protect from flying debris. It is equipped with four hydraulic drop-down skirts that lower to ground level so that the wind cannot pick up the TIV. It also has two hydraulic, stabilizing steel spears that can pierce the ground at a depth of 42 inches to help keep it from leaving the ground while inside a tornado.

The next part of the documentary focuses more on the chase and telling the audience how it is nearly impossible to position the TIV to be in the path of the tornado. Driver Marcus Gutierrez, who also acts as the team’s medic and served in the Army as a medic as well, says guessing the path of a tornado and then positioning the TIV to be in that path is the hardest thing he has ever had to do.

The last third of the movie is the most exciting as both Casey and Gutierrez find themselves chasing a promising tornado in Oklahoma. After going off-road and through what appears to be someone’s barbed-wire fence in one scene, the two are in the path of the tornado. Casey mans the camera, positioned on a revolving turret in the middle of the TIV, and Gutierrez flips the necessary switches. The skirts drop to the ground, the spears pierce the ground to embrace for impact and the audience gets to see the inside of a tornado.

Though exciting throughout, the ending of the film is a bit of a letdown.

The movie spends a good amount of time building anticipation for an ending that just doesn’t live up to expectations. The scene from inside the tornado lasts for only about 15 seconds, followed by an interview with Casey and some other meteorologists and then the ending credits. The movie basically has a Discovery Channel feel to it rather than the amazing jaw-dropping experience someone would expect when seeing an IMAX-only movie about tornadoes.

If you look past the ending and just want to see an interesting movie about interesting people, this could be an enjoyable documentary. But if you’re expecting to see footage that will blow you away, it just simply isn’t there.

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