Sean Casey chases tornadoes in TIV 2, a vehicle designed to withstand the powerful winds of a tornado so he can capture nature’s fury on film. The vehicle features a Cummins engine.
A chance meeting at a promotional event has led to a partnership between Cummins and professional storm chaser Sean Casey.
Cummins took Casey’s Tornado Intercept Vehicle (TIV) 2 in for repairs in April, helping to get his engine back to factory specifications in addition to cleaning up some wiring, the turbocharger and more (see Casey talking about the TIV2).
“In the field, we don’t have the time and proper tools to correct issues,” Casey said. “We use a lot of Band-Aids, and it’s caught up to us. I am glad I can depend on Cummins.”
Casey began his quest to film an IMAX movie on tornadoes in 2003. The first five seasons of filming were done in TIV 1, which was not built with a Cummins engine. After several storm seasons in tornado alley, Casey realized he needed a vehicle that could get him into the heart of the storm, which often times takes him off road. He needed four-wheel drive and he needed more power.
“Every time we would have a breakdown in the Plains and would show up in a repair facility, I was always told I should have bought a Dodge Ram with a Cummins diesel engine,” Casey said. “After hearing that enough times, when building TIV 2, it was a no brainer as to which chassis and engine the vehicle would be built on.
“When you are out chasing you want the best possible components you can get,” Casey added. “You are in a situation where you want reliability. You need reliability. That’s why we drive Cummins.”
Work on TIV 2 started in late 2007. The vehicle uses a 2008 Dodge Ram 3500 chassis with a Cummins 6.7L Turbo Diesel. TIV 2’s top speed is over 100 miles per hour despite a 95-gallon fuel tank and 15,000 pounds of total weight.
When designing TIV 2, protection for the crew was critical. The vehicle is built on a two-inch steel frame. Hydraulics allow TIV 2 higher clearance when going down the road, and lower clearance when in position to intercept a storm.
Hydraulic skirts drop down to stabilize the vehicle, and four hydraulic spikes pierce the earth to anchor the vehicle, preventing flipping if winds catch underneath. Windows in TIV 2 are 1.6-inch polycarbonate and the armor protecting the cab of the vehicle is a 2-inch combination of aluminum, Kevlar, steel, rubber and polycarbonate.
Atop the TIV 2 sits a turret. The turret houses a $100,000 IMAX camera, passed down to Casey from his father George Casey, a pioneer in IMAX films. The turret spins 360 degrees, and has a flap that hydraulically opens and closes based on need.
Hydraulics also level out the camera so the shot is constant. The turret is Casey’s home when a storm hits.
Casey and TIV 2 have been a part of several National Science Foundation (NSF) projects to better understand the science behind how tornadoes form, their movement, and how wind directions shift at varying heights within a storm.
TIV 2 is equipped with a mast on the rear that extends up 10 ft. and holds several weather instruments including temperature and humidity gauges. The data collected from the instrumentation is fed to a team of scientists who analyze the data to help understand tornadoes, and ultimately extend warning times and save lives.
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