Friday, March 11
10: 50 a.m.: Sean Casey introduces "Tornado Alley"
11:15 a.m. - 1 p.m. and 2-4 p.m.: Autograph sessions with Sean
Saturday, March 12
9:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m.: Hands-on science storm activities
10:50 a.m.: Sean Casey introduces "Tornado Alley"
11 a.m.-noon and 2:30-4 p.m.: Meet Sean Casey and see
1-2 p.m.: "Twisted Careers" lecture
If you think that since you live in Illinois, you've seen it all
when it comes to tornadoes, head over to the Museum of Science
& Industry. The world premiere of Omnimax film "Tornado Alley" proves that when it comes to
twisters, you haven't seen anything yet.
Get more news
and reviews about MSI
"Tornado Alley" is the brainchild of Sean Casey, the star of
Discovery Channel's "Storm Chasers." It follows director Casey and
members of the VORTEX2 tornado research team as they go on a quest
to witness the birth of a tornado - from inside of it.
Casey built his own storm-chasing contraption, the Tornado
Intercept Vehicle (TIV), a Dodge Ram truck armored with 14,000
pounds that enable it to withstand tornado winds. His mission,
which took 8 years to fulfill, was to put moviegoers in the eye of
"The words fall flat," Casey says. "Hopefully we can show you
what it's like to go into some of the most awesome weather there
That undertaking is fully realized in the 5-story Omnimax dome,
where ghostly funnels fill the screen as they approach. I felt like
ducking as branches and other debris flew at me and half-expected a
cow to go flying across the screen, "Twister"-style.
But the thrill of the chase isn't the only aspect of "Tornado
Alley." The film also delves into some of the science behind
tornado genesis, as explained by the VORTEX2 team. The main
impression is one of unpredictability; no one can always foresee
which storm will turn into the "big one," which hinders sufficient
The science makes the film an ideal companion to the "Science
Storms" exhibit at MSI, which includes interviews with Dr. Josh
Wurman, who is featured in the film.
"Kids can see what a tornado looks like and learn the basics of
tornadogenesis," Casey says, "Hopefully they'll see [storm chasing
is] a lot of hard work."
"Tornado Alley" makes its world debut at MSI this weekend and
will be released nationwide on March 18.
The museum is celebrating the ground-breaking film with
meet-and-greets with Casey and the scientists, a lecture, and the
opportunity to see the TIV and DOW (Doppler on Wheels) in
At 40 minutes, the film is probably best for older kids who can
sit still, understand some science, and not get scared by the storm
sequences. But rather than fear, what "Tornado Alley" mostly
inspires is awe - just as Casey hoped - and a healthy respect for
the havoc a tornado can wreak.
As he says in the film: "Tornadoes are one of the visual wonders
of the world. It feels like it should be on another planet."
And thankfully we can experience that otherworldly wonder
ourselves - all from the safety of a movie theater.
'Tornado Alley' opens at MSI on March 11. See sidebar for
more information and check website for Omnimax schedule
Elizabeth Diffin is the senior editor at Chicago Parent. She lives in Wheaton.
See more of Elizabeth's stories here.
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