Okay, everyone, a show of hands: who here would like to drive into an oncoming tornado? Anybody? Nobody? I thought so! As I learned from catching the new IMAX movie Tornado Alley last week, tornadoes are fierce, extremely dangerous storms that can hit with little warning. However, as I also learned, some people are so fascinated by them that they’ll go to great lengths to put themselves right into their path.
The documentary follows filmmaker Sean Casey as well as a group of scientists known as VORTEX2. The goals for each were different. VORTEX2 wanted to gather info on tornadoes in order to better predict them — if successful, their research could provide faster warnings and potentially save lives. Casey’s goals were more to capture the power of tornadoes on film.
To get his footage, Casey spent years building specialized equipment. The most impressive invention in his arsenal is his “tornado intercept vehicle” (pictured above). It has a special pod inside that allows a huge IMAX camera to swivel in all directions. Casey describes the vehicle as a tripod on wheels — even though it weighs several tonnes and looks more like a tank!
Here are a few things I learned while watching the movie:
1) About 1,000 tornadoes hit the United States every year, and most of these hit an area known as “tornado alley” — hence the name of the movie. This area consists of several states, including Oklahoma, Kansas, and Nebraska.
2) After the U.S., Canada gets more tornadoes than any other country. (Luckily, not too many hit populated places, and those that do are often too weak to cause much damage.)
3) Even though researchers can predict which weather systems might turn into tornadoes, there is still a lot of mystery surrounding them. Often in the movie the filmmakers would be watching one area only to discover that a tornado was suddenly touching down a few kilometres (miles) away.
Overall, I liked this movie. It was incredibly cool to look at — especially on the huge IMAX screen — and you really get a sense of what it’s like to have a tornado coming right at you (wind, sudden and extreme darkness, you name it!).
Talk to you soon!