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Driving Into A Tornado... On Purpose

FORT WORTH (CBSDFW.COM) -Tornadoes are destructive and dangerous, so imagine driving right into the middle of one.  There's a vehicle making stops through North Texas that has done it.  CBS11's Larry Mowry got a ride in it Friday morning.

The unusual vehicle - a Tornado Intercept Vehicle or TIV - is making a stop at the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History Friday and Saturday, and it's getting a lot of interesting looks around town.

"You get a lot of what is this kind of look you know," said Marcus Gutierrez who drives the TIV into some of the most dangerous storms.  He's part of the TIV crew that filmed the new movie "Tornado Alley" now showing at the museum's IMAX theater.

"What's it like to be in a tornado," Larry asked?  "It's really stressful actually," Gutierrez said.  "Tornadoes can start off really small, and in a matter of minutes, they change."

The TIV weights 8 tons which is about the size of a full grown elephant, and it's designed to drive right into a tornado.

"Kevlar, aluminum, steel, rubber, polycarbonate, rubber and then steel again," Gutierrez explained about the vehicles exterior shell.  "So, it's a sandwich of just absorbent type of materials."

With its armor and custom bullet-proof glass, the TIV can withstand winds of up to 155 miles per hour.  Flaps on each side of the vehicle drop down to prevent any wind from flying underneath the TIV which could cause it to roll over.

"It's a very challenging thing to get out there and try to place anything in the tornado because they evolve so fast," explained Brandon Ivey, the TIV crew's resident meteorologist.  He says last year, the crew chased for 2 and a half months and drove more than 30,000 miles chasing tornadoes.

"We probably saw about 2 dozen tornadoes," he said.

While their film was important, their overall goal is to help collect scientific data that could help increase tornado warning times.

"Right now it's 12 minutes to forewarn a community, we want to lengthen that time to at least 20 or 30 minutes so people can get to safety," Gutierrez said.

"Weather's always been a big passion for me, so going out there and being able to do it and work with Sean on his film, it's kind of been a dream come true for a storm chaser," Ivey said.

The TIV will be at the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History tomorrow (Saturday) for most of the day.  The film, "Tornado Alley", will be showing at the IMAX theater there through the fall.

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