First tornado interception vehicle found in Kansas after scavenger hunt


TIV undergoing restoration and reconstruction

WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – Living on the Great Plains, the Kansans are no strangers to inclement weather and the threat of tornadoes.

Meteorologists and scientists continue to study and observe atmospheric phenomena to better understand what causes certain thunderstorms to produce tornadoes.

In 2007, a national television show opened the door to show the fury that storms can unleash. It was a window into how scientists and weather enthusiasts tracked powerful storms and showed off the instruments they used. Some wanted to push these observations a little further.

Filmmaker Sean Casey took the observations further. He designed vehicles capable of safely capturing the experience of intercepting a tornado. It was called the TIV or tornado interception vehicle.

When the show ended in 2011, Casey no longer needed to keep his two armored vehicles. One of the vehicles was sold and the other was a scavenger hunt for TIV1 that took KSN Storm Tracker Robert Clayton deep into Kansas.

“We started going to Google Earth, and we found it on Google Earth in some guy’s backyard,” Clayton recalled.

Clues left online led him to Liebenthal, where TIV had been parked for a decade. Only the owner had no idea the vehicle was parked on his property.

Clayton explained the situation to the landowner, that the first to find him was the proud new owner of the vehicle.

“By his rules, I own TIV now,” Clayton said.

The TIV1, which is essentially a 1997 Ford pickup truck, is the first of two tornado interceptor vehicles. However, it will need some TLC before it can be used again.

Cole Pfiefer, Augie Towing and Repair at Hays, will work closely with Clayton to get the TIV back to working order. This is not TIV’s first visit to its specific store.

“This thing has been in our store before with the previous owners,” bringing the project back to where it all started.

Some of the early upgrades will include keeping the engine running smoothly, upgrading the windows, adding a special liner to the sheet metal that wraps around the truck.

Newer technology, like hydraulic anchors, will replace the claws on the side of the vehicle, dropping it to the ground when it encounters high winds so it doesn’t tip over. While his team will be working on updating the look of the TIV, Clayton admits that as long as it works well, is safe, can stop and turn, those are the most important things.

Robert Clayton would also like to add science instruments because he believes there is still science that can be done at ground level, which makes these vehicles useful not only for spotting storms, but also for collecting scientific data.

“I’m not a scientist, I don’t want to be a scientist, but I want to help those affected by tornadoes.”

He remembers what it was like during the May 3, 1999 tornadoes that hit Kansas and Oklahoma and how helpless you feel when life-threatening storms narrowly miss you.

As for the TIV1, Robert hopes that it can be a tool to help someone else in case of bad weather.

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