New Vehicle Aimed At Keeping Storm Chasers Safe - KMSP-TV

New Vehicle Aimed At Keeping Storm Chasers Safe

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Storm chasing may look like fun, but it's risky.

Now the Iowa Storm Chasing Network believe they have the protection needed to brave the elements.

Say hello to ‘Dorothy,' a former Ford E-350 van turned storm chasing vehicle, which will allow researchers with the Iowa Storm Chasing Network to safely study tornadoes up close and personal.

"A lot of people think we're adrenaline junkies out there just doing it to get that hype and get some awesome footage, but you know, we're out there for public safety reasons too," Zach Sharpe, lead forecaster for ISCN, said.

From inside this moving fortress, storm chasers can track tornadoes in real-time. This will help the people at home know where a twister is heading and when to take cover.

 "Dorothy is built like a tank so she can get right up to tornadoes. That let's chasers get video from all sorts of angles, live-stream it to the web, and better understand the destructive forces of a tornado and debris using a slow-motion camera," Fox News correspondent Garrett Tenney said.

"If you get closer to the storm then you can actually slow down that footage and see what goes first during a tornado and maybe even give it to structural engineers, so we can eventually build houses stronger that can maybe withstand tornadoes one day," Sharpe explained.

When ‘Dorothy' gets within a couple hundred yards of a twister, hydraulics drop massive steel flaps to the ground, blocking debris and raising her up to prevent strong winds from flipping the 9,000 pound tornado tank.

It's an extremely dangerous service they provide. Last year three storms chasers were killed in a massive tornado that demolished their car and claimed the lives of 10 others.

"Tornadoes are really unpredictable and they can make a turn at any second, and if you're in a small car you're not going to do too well. So basically the thought behind this is safety," Brennan Jontz, videographer for ISCN, said.

Safety that allows the kind of research they believe can save lives.

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