Wednesday, January 11, 2012

"Tornado Alley": IMAX 3D film documents efforts of "Vortex 2"

Tornado Alley”, a new 40-minute IMAX 3-D film from Sean Casey, follows the efforts of a tornado-hunting group called “Vortex 2” in the American Great Plains. Using an armored 200-mph-windproofed vehicle that Casey built himself in California, Casey finally sits inside a tornado.

Vortex 2 has a detailed website about tornado research, here.

The film does not identify the specific locations it chases tornadoes;  the license plates suggest eastern Colorado as the site for climax.   A town with houses is shown just as a tornado approaches, and the aftermath is shown, but the town is not identified.

I saw this in the Smithsonian Natural History Museum Imax auditorium.   The film was produced by Giant Screen Films and the Discovery Channel.

Wally Kennedy has a video on YouTube, put up by the Joplin Globe, where graduate students accompany the team.

The official site is here

Wikipedia attribution link for multi-vortex tornado in Dallas in 1957.  The film has many shots of multi-vortex tornadoes. 

If the 2011-2012 La Nina winter is unusually warm, how will the tornado season shape up in the Spring? The 2011 season was severe because the deep snowpack in the Rockies prolonged the cold air feeding into the Great Plains, to clash and spin with air from the Gulf of Mexico.  Many of the worst tornadoes (Tuscaloosa, Joplin, even the Raleigh suburbs) wore farther East than usual as a result. 

Tornadoes can occur almost anywhere and in any month of the year.  On November 17, 2010, there was an F0 (maybe F1) small tornado in Arlington VA near the Hospital Center that did a lot of tree and power line damage, around midnight, when the air temperature was "only" about 65 degrees F.   Winds 50 feet above the group were probably over 90 mph at one street intersection, but the funnel was very small, probably less than 30 feet in width.  Damage, below.

Second picture (mine): Angry clouds near Ohio Turnpike in Oct. 2010, but cold front had already moved through.  One thing I remember about boyhood summer trips to Ohio from Virginia: the weekly thunderstorms were far more violent in Ohio.  We used to watch them from the porch, drinking Koolaid.

A review of Sony's "Take Shelter" appears on the Movies Blog Oct. 15, 2011.

A review of Leonardo Di Carpio's "Greensburg: A Story of Community Rebuilding" appears on the TV reviews blog April 15, 2009. 

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