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.
Premiere Weekend Schedule:
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
“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 storm.
“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 is.
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 warning time.
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 person.
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 and cost.