Storm Chaser Captures What It’s Like to Sit In the Middle of an EF4 Tornado

During the 2013 Moore tornado last week, a young man named Charles Gafford III stuck his cell phone through a hole in his storm shelter and captured close-up footage of the EF5 tornado as it passed by. If you thought that video was crazy, check out the footage above — it shows what it’s like to get hit directly by a massive EF4 tornado!

A photograph of a wedge tornado in Oklahoma that was nearly a mile wide.

A photograph of a wedge tornado in Oklahoma that was nearly a mile wide. Casey and Ivey sat through one that was about half that size.

The footage was captured by veteran storm chasers Brandon Ivey and Sean Casey, who hunted down the tornado when it touched down in Smith County, Kansas yesterday afternoon.

Despite what you might think, the duo wasn’t trapped in the tornado by accident — they intentionally rode through the storm while sitting in a custom made tank-like Tornado Intercept Vehicle (TIV) designed by Casey:


The TIV is like an ugly version of the new Batman Tumbler. It’s based on a Dodge Ram 3500, weighs 14,300 pounds, has 625 horsepower, can travel over 100MPH, has a range of 750 miles, is protected by a 1/8-inch steel skin covering a 2-inch steel frame, and is covered by a bullet-resistant 1.63-inches of polycarbonate sheets and glass.

Here’s a video in which Casey introduces the TIV:

Casey is an IMAX filmmaker who appears in the Discovery Channel series “Storm Chasers.” The vehicle he design is built to withstand EF-5 tornadoes with winds of over 200 miles per hour. The tornado captured in the video above was measured at half-a-mile wide and with winds of 150-175MPH, classifying it as an EF3/EF4 tornado.

The force of the wind was so powerful that a hatch and door on the vehicle both blew open, instruments were ripped off the exterior, and a piece of wood flew inside. Luckily for the two cameramen, the TIV did stay on the ground. Luckily for us, they kept their cameras rolling.

  • brob

    absolutely amazing

  • shakycamera guy

    I don’t want to sound like I am condescending but I have to say something.

    I mean, you drive out intentionally into a tornado risking life and limb and then you don’t have enough sense to place the camera on some sort of fixed mounting? I see a suction cup window mount right there, velcro that thing down or something.
    The video was equivalent to running out into a busy freeway to pick up a penny, not much foresight into it.

    The sound was horrible, I am guessing due to the high winds and pressures, I get that, that is to be expected.

    I would expect this quality of video from anyone who was caught by the tornado by accident, not someone intentionally driving out to find one.

    Nice job, but next time, plan on a little production value, for the rest of us to take you storm chasers seriously.

  • CrackerJacker

    Hmm… ya think maybe the IMAX footage is being saved for something other than YouTube? I’m guessing this was shot with a back-up camera by the navigator/meteorologist (who Sean says would sit in that seat).

  • Anthony Burokas

    That’s a lot of stuff flying through the air in there. I’m surprised there wasn’t more crap pounding on the side of the truck. Yes, a better camera would have been expected, but I’m also certain that the situation in the cab as the tornado whips the truck about is pretty hairy. I’m impressed it was as stable as it was, and I’m sure this is the general release footage, better footage can be purchased.

    Lastly, I wonder what it was that flashes across the windshield at around 2:06. A bright flash leaves a gash that stays on the windshield at the same place, no matter how the camera moves. That 1.63″ polycarbonate paid off right there.

  • Kyle

    I thought the same thing, but I have seen the show on the discovery channel and seen the equipment they have at their disposal so I know they are capable of shooting a better video. I thought that the video above may have been on a cell phone or something and that they’re saving the real footage for an IMAX production or something.

  • Philip Han

    You’re not condescending but you didn’t even bother to do a little research. It even mentions that he’s an IMAX film maker. He’s not just going to post everything online, it’s probably just a little preview.

  • YJawhar

    These dudes are definitely ready for the zombie apocalypse! When that happens, I wanna be a part of their team.

  • karmaportrait

    I’m sure gas milage is superb

  • pjapk

    From their FB page:

    TIV just hit by a very strong tornado. We are ok, and filmed Imax. Hit with lots of debris, door opened. Piece of wood entered vehicle.

  • DR

    Looks like it could have been a direct lightning strike. And, yes, I fully agree – that thick polycarbonate paid off big time.

  • branden rio

    I don’t think he does his shopping in the thing, but nice try searching for something irrelevant to complain about!

  • karmaportrait

    that’s what the comments are for, just doing my part.

  • shakycamera guy

    I saw that and that to me does no justice.

    I mean if I were to promote an Imax film I was doing, I wouldn’t use a shaky cell-phone video to promote it even as a teaser.

    That would be like any pro photographer using travel snapshots that are out of focus to promote their business, not re-assuring.

    If he were a promoting his Imax film, what’s wrong with a little teaser from that film? You don’t see movie companies promoting their films with a video that some key grip took from his iPhone.

    See where I am getting at?

  • condescending shaky camera guy

    LOL, did you miss the fixed mount on the windshield?

    Do you think they only brought one camera?

    And for video they sell to news organizations, do you think they’re going to put up their quality video on YouTube, or their backup-backup camera footage?