When we first saw the TIV-2 in those spy photos in May, details were thin. We didn't even realize it was his sequel to the original Tornado Intercept Vehicle (TIV). Now the TIV-2 is the star of Discovery Channel's "Storm Chasers" which debuted it's latest season in mid-October. The original TIV was based around a two wheel drive Ford F-450 with a completely redesigned body optimized for protection and low to the ground with deployable ground anchors to keep winds from upending the vehicle. While the approach worked in concept, out on the trail of tornadoes it didn't turn out so well, getting hung up on road debris and downed trees. The original was more or less limited to on-road use — a type of geographic limiter tornadoes don't maintain. In addition to the low ground clearance, the incredibly high weight kept the truck's top speed to a mere 61 MPH. That's where the TIV2 comes in. The first thing you notice from the new chase vehicle is it has sides fitted with hydraulic skirts that can be dropped down to direct high-speed wind safely around the truck. Whether the skirts are down or up, this sucker's imposing thanks to a chassis based on the 2008 Dodge 2500 4x4 with a 1/8th inch welded steel plate body over a steel frame. The chassis was originally strengthened by the now defunct USA 6X6 and welding students at Great Plains Technical Center. We say originally because the USA 6X6 design kept snapping rear shafts due to the 17,500 lb. weight of the vehicle. A new shop put two Dana 80s in the back and that's helped. Power comes from a 6.7 liter Cummins turbodiesel outfitted with propane and water injection — two methods for building muscle on demand, all the way up to 625 HP. That power goes to good use too, the truck has three driven axles with two sets of dual tires on the back, all of which can be locked in for total forward power and have a self leveling mechanism to keep everything flat on awkward terrain. The fun stuff doesn't stop there. The raison d'etre for the TIV2 is what it can do with the turret up top — film super high resolution IMAX video for a mega-screen movie about tornadoes. The turret is constructed from steel plate, laminated tempered glass and polycarbonate sheets and can rotate 360 degrees to get what ever shot is needed. Just behind the turret is the science mast, used to measure wind speed, relative humidity and barometric pressure. The mast can actually fold down for clearance when the surroundings close in on the TIV-2. As we said, all that steel and gear adds up, giving this baby a scale-tipping 17,500 lbs fully loaded, an asset when you don't want to get picked up and tossed like a rag doll. What's doubly funny about this thing is with its 92 gallon fuel tank, the truck has a range of about 750 miles with this monster returning the same fuel mileage as a Hummer H2 at 12 MPG. How that works out we have no idea. On the inside there's more levers and buttons than you can shake a stick at — everything from hydraulics to lower this beast and make it hug the ground and provide the necessary ground-hugging downforce when an F-3 comes roaring overhead, to the Kicker speaker system wired into the CB radio in order to hear spotters on the line when trees are coming straight toward you. They also have their very own mapping and topography system which, unfortunately, wasn't plugged in and ready to go when we showed up. But, the other scoop we learned is that Casey wants the next TIV, the TIV-3, to be a Baja pre-runner with a mid-mounted engine and the ability to really drop the truck to the lowest degree possible — a mere 4 feet tall when lowered for tornado-bunkering. Now that's a truck we want to see. You can see Sean Casey and the rest of his team, along with the TIV2 do their thing on the Discovery Channel at 10 PM eastern. We're wondering if we ask nicely, when the the TIV2 has lived out its years, if Casey and Co. will donate it to Jalopnik's Post-Apocalyptic Vehicle garage.
GIVING NEW MEANING TO BEING AT THE RIGHT PLACE AT THE RIGHT TIME STORM CHASERS ROARS BACK FOR SECOND SEASON ON DISCOVERY CHANNEL — All new original series premieres Sunday, October 19, 2008, at 10 PM (ET/PT) — (Silver Spring, Md.) –- Discovery Channel returns to the nation's heartland - Tornado Alley - for a firsthand look at one of nature's most destructive forces in an all new season of STORM CHASERS, premiering Sunday, October 19, 2008, at 10 PM (ET/PT). Veteran research meteorologist Dr. Joshua Wurman, IMAX filmmaker Sean Casey and chaser prodigy Reed Timmer all race to capture rare footage and valuable scientific data. Last season, Casey's tank-like Tornado Intercept Vehicle (TIV), raised eyebrows roaring down the nation's highways and byways looking for the shot of all time – filming from inside a tornado. Now, his new and improved creation, the TIV-2, raises the stakes, providing not only astonishing footage and but also new information on how tornados are formed, grow and travel – research that can be used to increase early warning systems and save lives. "Mixing science, fear and a good old fashioned American road trip STORM CHASERS packs a torrent of excitement, knowledge and entertainment for the ultimate in television immersion," said John Ford, president and general manager, Discovery Channel. Casey and Wurman make an unlikely team. Filming from the turret of his self-designed and self-built TIV-2, Casey risks his life to get the most elusive tornado footage ever shot. As the leader of the team, Wurman guides the TIV from inside his own vehicle command post, The Doppler on Wheels (DOW). He makes split-second life-or-death decisions based on information from Doppler radar; as the safety of the entire team rests on his shoulders. Hot on their trail, and often one step ahead, is storm chasing wunderkind Timmer, a PhD candidate in Meteorology at the University of Oklahoma and, ironically, a former student of Wurman. Timmer and his rag tag team of buddies Joel (driver) and Chris (hailstone collector), track storms in their unique way. Freed from complicated on-board computer systems and intricate vehicle design, the threesome set a course for surprise and adventure. STORM CHASERS is produced for Discovery Channel by Original Media. Charlie Corwin, Lisa Bloch and Clara Markowicz are executive producers for Original Media. Bill Howard is executive producer for Discovery Channel. STORM CHASERS Storm Facts What is Tornado Alley? Tornado Alley is a nickname in the popular media for a broad swath of relatively high tornado occurrence in the central U.S. Violent or killer tornadoes do happen outside this Tornado Alley every year. Tornadoes can occur almost anywhere in the U.S., including west of the Rockies and east of the Appalachians — and even in Canada and overseas. What is tornado season? Tornadoes can happen any time of year if the conditions are right. However, tornado season usually refers to the peak period for historical tornado reports in an area. There is a general northward shift in "tornado season" in the U.S. from late winter through mid summer. The peak period for tornadoes in the southern plains, for example, is during May into early June. On the Gulf coast, it is earlier during the spring; in the northern plains and upper Midwest, it is June or July. How many people are killed every year by tornadoes? How do most deaths happen in tornadoes? On average, tornadoes kill about 60 people per year — most from flying or falling debris. How many tornadoes hit the U.S. each year? About one thousand. The actual average is unknown, because tornado spotting and reporting methods have changed so much in the last several decades that the officially recorded tornado climatologies are believed to be incomplete. Also, in the course of recording thousands of tornadoes, errors are bound to occur. Events can be missed or mis-classified; and some non-damaging tornadoes in remote areas could still be unreported. What was the strongest tornado? What is the highest wind speed in a tornado? Nobody knows. Tornado wind speeds have only been directly recorded in the weaker ones, because strong and violent tornadoes destroy weather instruments. Mobile Doppler radars such as the OU Doppler on Wheels have remotely sensed tornado wind speeds above ground level as high as about 302 mph (on 3 May 1999 near Bridge Creek OK) — the highest winds ever found near earth's surface by any means. [That tornado caused F5 damage.] But ground-level wind speeds in the most violent tornadoes have never been directly measured[Sources: Discovery Channel, DiscoveryBlogs, TheDieselGarage, Storm Chasers Website]